STOP DROUGHT! PROGRAMME STARTS FOR SHAPING WATER RESOURCES IN AGRICULTURAL AREAS

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The National Water Management Authority are announcing further tenders for water channel retention investments, whose task is to improve the water balance in agricultural areas. Due to the ongoing drought, an additional PLN 154.7 million has been designated for implementing 645 investment tasks throughout Poland.

Droughts have been observed in Poland in four out of the five last years. Observations indicate that this type of phenomena has a tendency to extend in time and space. Within the framework of counteracting drought effects, the National Water Management Authority has already implemented investments aimed at improvement of the national water balance. Over 2 billion zloty have been designated for this purpose. In addition, PLN 380 million has been secured for the maintenance works, which will cover over 4 thousand tasks. Only comprehensive investments into retention-promoting activities can bring measurable results in counteracting drought.

Without investments in water retention we cannot efficiently prevent drought. Availability of water during drought is of key importance for agriculture, which can be achieved by ensuring the dual functionality of drainage facilities. To this end, the National Water Management Authority together with the Ministry of Maritime Economy and Inland Navigation, Ministry of Agriculture and Rural Development, local governments and water companies involving farmers are implementing the programme for managing water resources in agricultural areas.

It is a modern approach implemented as part of the works under the STOP DROUGHT! programme, aimed at improving the retention capacities of water courses and drainage facilities with the use of weirs, culvert-gates and other devices. Thanks to this, during the periods of drought and low rainfall, temporary water damming will be performed in specified areas on rivers and channels via gates and other devices, ensuring the redirection of water to the drainage ditch systems connected to these watercourses.

Application of these solutions has a positive impact on the water balance in the given area, at relatively low financial expense. Actions on drainage facilities and watercourses must be prepared in great detail at the design stage, as these will constitute local, dispersed actions. At the same time, they are highly efficient, which has been shown in a pilot programme implemented by the National Water Management Authority Catchment Board in Gryfice. For the next 3 years, the National Water Management Authority is planning the execution of 645 investments dedicated to agricultural areas, for the total of PLN 154.7 million. Only this year, the expenditure on these activities will be PLN 60 million! This will result in increasing the water retention index in Poland by approx. 1%, which will translate into increased retention capacities by up to 8% nationally.

As part of the investment works, the dual functionality of drainage devices will be restored, ensuring drainage of water from fields and arable land during rainfall, as well as retention of water in drought periods. At the same time, at the outlet sections of collecting ditches, used to drain water from the drainage facilities to the watercourses, ecotone vegetation will be introduced, forming buffer zones along rivers and ditches, supporting natural water retention and biodiversity, and reducing biogen run-off to the waters. It is a comprehensive approach to water management, combining the economic and environmental aspect to counteract agricultural drought. Considering the increasing drought hazard, employees of the National Water Management Authority have undertaken field work aimed at improving water retention in rivers with the use of gates or closures on the existing small damming facilities.

Impeded run-off of waters in rivers increases retention in their channels, enabling preservation of environmental flows during drought periods, translating into increased groundwater levels and an enhanced microclimate. All of these works and investments result in the elevated contribution of waters collected in a dispersed manner across Poland, translating into improved water regimens. These activities promote sustainable water management in agricultural areas, securing water availability in periods of rainfall shortage, and the free run-off of water from drainage facilities to rivers and channels in periods of excessive rainfall. These investments restore the dual functionality of drainage systems.

Control of the water level in rivers and channels on the sections connected with the system of drainage ditches enables filling drainage ditches with water for the period of drought. Water is retained in ditch systems by aquatic devices, such as culvert-gates. Thanks to these works, water can fill the river channel sections, and the groundwater level increases in the neighbouring areas. Retention of water in the upper sections of the basin will prevent excessive run-off from arable and forest soils, which is of key significance for reducing the costs associated with paying compensation due to the effects of agricultural drought.

Alleviation of drought effects and flood safety will be attained via investments in water retention. 6.5% of water is retained in Poland, whereas in Spain it is over 45%. Within the framework of the drought effects counteraction plan and the programme for preventing water deficits, the target for national water retention by 2030 shall be 15% of the average national run-off. A change in the structure of rainfall has forced us to implement investments, which would enable us to efficiently manage each drop of water at the moment it falls to the ground. Only comprehensive activities, combining elements of natural and artificial retention and technical and non-technical actions, can constitute an efficient response to the issue of drought in Poland. According to the drought effects counteraction plan, we will attain a level of 30% by 2050.