One of the topics discussed during the public consultation meetings on the draft for the Drought Effects Counteracting Plan (DECP), which took place on 5 November in Olsztyn, was the need to develop an integrated and comprehensive atmospheric, agricultural, hydrological and hydrogeological drought monitoring system.
There are already several separate drought monitoring systems in Poland. The purpose of this measure (one of the 25 outlined in the activity catalogue that constitutes the most important part of DECP) is not only to improve and integrate these systems but also to include them in the general crisis management tools and dangerous phenomena early warning systems. Firstly, both rules and an administrative structure for such an integrated monitoring system must be developed. “Once it is ready, all interested parties will be able to use this system to find the data needed to limit the risk of drought, as well as information on rainfall deficit forecasts and changes in the amount of surface and underground water resources. The integrated drought monitoring system must monitor all types of drought at once, i.e. atmospheric, agricultural, hydrological and hydrogeological”, explained Mirosław Markowski, Director of SWH Polish Waters in Białystok. This, in turn, will render it possible to implement any necessary actions via the local information and management systems and indirectly contribute to reducing the impact of drought for all sectors of the economy. It is also planned that data from the integrated drought monitoring system will be used in a crop insurance system against drought damage. Changing the subsidised insurance system is yet another measure included in the DECP catalogue. Its aim is to increase the number of farms covered by drought insurance.
About 30% of the agricultural and forest land in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship is under severe threat of agricultural drought. As such, all measures that increase water retention improve the chances of mitigating its impact. In the case of agricultural areas, these primarily consist in increasing the amount of water retained in the soil, delaying water runoff and reducing water consumption in crop cultivation. Irrigation and drainage systems which make it possible to control soil moisture content during agricultural drought are just one example of an effective solution in this regard. Hydrological drought is taking its toll on the region as well. In the case of surface waters (lakes and rivers), almost 20% of the voivodeship’s total area is under serious threat, caused by dropping water levels during droughts. Counteracting the effects of hydrological drought includes constructing and reconstructing weirs to slow down water outflow and to increase retention. “The investment projects to be implemented in the Warmińsko-Mazurskie Voivodeship in the coming years include constructing small reservoirs on the Srebrny Potok River near Elbląg and the Łyna River in Dobre Miasto, as well as reconstructing weirs, as mentioned above. These projects will be implemented by the relevant Regional Water Management Boards, including the one in Białystok”, added Mr Markowski.
Consultation meetings on the DECP project had already been held in Poznań, Zielona Góra, Wrocław, Gliwice, Lublin, Rzeszów, Kraków, Szczecin, Koszalin, Gdańsk and Bydgoszcz. Prior to the end of this year, debates are planned for Białystok (06/11) and Łódź (13/11) as well. The public consultations are to 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. There anyone can 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).