STOP DROUGHT! GOOD PRACTICES AND ECOSYSTEM SERVICES – A REMEDY FOR AGRICULTURAL DROUGHT

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When it comes to counteracting the effects of drought, then education, ecosystem services and ensuring natural water retention are just as important as large-scale investment projects. Such undertakings were discussed in Białystok on 6 November. It was the second-to-last meeting this year as part of the public consultations on drafting the Drought Effects Counteracting Plan (DECP).

“The area under the responsibility of the Regional Water Management Board in Bialystok is particularly water-rich. It is, after all, referred to as the ‘Land of a Thousand Lakes’. The problems faced by the provinces in central Poland or regions such as Kujawy and Pomerania as well as the tasks to be performed there, are of a quite different nature,” said Przemysław Daca, President of SWH Polish Waters. Only one of the 5 investment projects included in the DECP concerns constructing a reservoir, the others all being about inspecting and repairing the existing water facilities. The DECP project maps available at www.konsultacjesusza.pl show the specifics of this region. The threat of agricultural drought in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie and Podlaskie Voivodeships (severe for 30% and 40% of the areas in these regions, respectively) still remains relatively less than in central Poland, for example. Hydrological drought is thus a rather moderate hazard in this region. “Nonetheless, during long periods without rainfall, the water level drops in even the most water-rich rivers and lakes”, Daca added.

The plans laid out in the DECP project state that activities in this region should focus primarily on reducing the negative effects of drought by slowing down or even completely stopping surface water runoff from areas used for agriculture (e.g. by limiting soil erosion, using no-till farming, sodding and afforestation of areas with more than a 20% gradient). Activities like planting mid-field shelterbelts, creating and restoring mid-field water holes and wetlands and increasing micro-retention on farms and in urban areas (e.g. by building small ponds to collect water draining from roofs and paved surfaces) are to be undertaken too. Good agricultural practices are also included in the DECP project as a separate category. They include economical water management, increasing soil humus content and adapting the type of crops grown by the farmers to the local soil, water and climate conditions. SWH Polish Waters emphasises that implementing these principles will not only reduce the volume of water consumed but also contribute to reducing losses in crop yields, thereby generating savings for the farmers themselves.

Consultation meetings on the DECP project have already been held in Poznań, Zielona Góra, Wrocław, Gliwice, Lublin, Rzeszów, Kraków, Szczecin, Koszalin, Gdańsk, Bydgoszcz and Olsztyn. The consultation meeting on the DECP draft in Białystok are the 13th of all meetings. One more debate remains to be held this year, and will take place in Łodź (13/11). The public consultations end with the final meeting in Warsaw in February 2020 (visit www.stopsuszy.pl for more information). The DECP is the first such comprehensive project on counteracting the effects of drought in Poland. Information about the DECP project is available at www.stopsuszy.pl and www.konsultacjesusza.pl. They also allow you to submit applications and comments to the DECP programme through a special form.

The DECP document, which will be the most important product of the Stop Drought! project, as well as the water and flood risk management plans, will greatly contribute to improving the water management processes in Poland. Following the public consultations, the DECP project will undergo a strategic environmental impact assessment. Following this, in 2020, the final step is to formally adopt the project via a regulation prepared by the minister responsible for water management. At that point, Poland will join the group of 10 European countries that have developed drought countermeasure plans. Similar projects have already been implemented by such countries as the United Kingdom, France, Spain, Portugal, Slovakia and Ukraine.

The President of SWH Polish Waters is obliged to prepare a drought effects countermeasure plan under the provisions of art. 240 par. 2. pt. 8 of the Act of 20 July 2017 – Water Law (Dz.U. of 2018, item 2268). So far, as part of the Stop Drought! project, a DECP preparation methodology has been created and a survey conducted of 3,500 entities related to water management. In addition, the draft plan of the project has been presented at national expert conferences and as part of the ‘Remember about water!’ social campaign. All works are financed via European funds (OPI&E 2014–2020).

Find out more here: www.stopsuszy.pl, www.wody.gov.pl and www.konsultacjesusza.pl