Catastrophe is looming for Poland as March and April feature incredible dry spells that could hurt farmers, reduce water tables, and exacerbate damage already caused by droughts from the previous two years.
According to the Polish Institute of Meteorology and Water Management (IMGW), March 2020 was an incredibly dry month for Poland and recorded precipitation was far lower than the average of the last several years.
There was precipitation in the first half of the month, but in the second half there were minimal amounts to none. April 2020 has been similar in that regard to March.
Hydrologist professor Paweł Rowiński stressed that Poland is currently seeing a much worse dry spell than in the same period in 2019. He warned that if there will not be regular precipitation in the upcoming weeks, Poland is facing one of the worst droughts in its history.
Rowiński added that the symptoms of what is called a hydrological drought, the worst kind of drought, are already visible. One of the symptoms are low water levels in rivers and the decrease in groundwater tables.
“The water level in the Vistula is even lower than in the analogic period last year. As a rule, water levels are higher in spring due to snow melting in the mountains,” he said.
He explained that because winter was warm this year and not much snow had fallen, there was not enough of it to melt and flow down rivers.
The expert pointed out that the soil moisture in Poland is also extremely low. On a scale from 0 to 100 percent, where 100 is the highest level of soil moisture, moisture has dropped below 30 percent in many places in Poland. In cases at 30 to 40 percent, in comparison, it is recognized that there is a water deficit in the root zone of a plant, which could lead to plant die off.
Rowiński emphasized that drought in Poland has a much large impact than in other European countries because Poland is very poor in natural ground water sources and is third last in the EU in terms of annual supply of water per person. That is almost three times below the EU average.
Another issue is that Poland has an inefficient model of water resource management. Poland retains only 6.5 percent of water from precipitation and retention is crucial to fighting a drought.
Poland and many other countries in Europe have already suffered severe drought in the past two years. The droughts have killed forests in Germany and Sweden, led to crop failures across Europe, and left countries disbursing aid to farmers who are struggling to deal with the lack of water.
Germany’s Rhine River has also already run dry this year, a major transport and sightseeing hub, underlining the threat the drought presents to all of Europe.
A record-setting fire has also engulfed large areas of Poland’s iconic Biebrza National Park, exacerbated by drought and strong winds, which has left large areas of the park with “unrecoverable” damage
Although Polish waterworks do not lack water for now, the professor emphasized that the threat is increasingly real, as some Polish towns have restricted access to running water last year. He explained that larger cities are in a better position than smaller towns that obtain their water from singular supplies.