Risks resulting from water shortages

Andrzej Kędziora, Małgorzata Kępińska-Kasprzak, Piotr Kowalczak, Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz, Antoni T. Miler, Edward Pierzgalski, Tamara Tokarczyk


A worsening of the water balance has been observed over decades in many European countries. Disturbances of meteorological and hydrological processes, as well as structural changes of vegetation and soil cover are main causes of droughts. Rapid development of civilization and population growth have led to a strong distortion of processes of energy flow and matter cycling, especially water circulation, and finally have led to deterioration of water conditions. Intensive agricultural activity has led to simplification of the landscape structure (monoculture) and land degradation, primarily due to organic matter decline, deterioration of soil structure and in consequence led to deterioration of water holding capacity of the landscape. The use of heavy farming machinery as well as excessive use of fertilizers has led to soil compaction and to the depletion of soil organic matter. Climate changes taking place in recent decades, particularly temperature rise and unfavorable change in annual rainfall patterns aggravated this situation. Decreasing of ratio of summer precipitation to winter precipitation, unfavorable for agriculture, has been observed in Poland. Increase of frequency of droughts has been and is a result of these adverse changes in the management of the environment as well as in climate change. The analysis of temporal and spatial pattern of drought in Poland is presented in the paper. The natural as well as anthropogenic causes of these phenomena are analyzed. The major errors in the field of water management, which have brought about deterioration of the structure of the water balance of the basin, are listed. The most important environmental, economic, and social risks resulting from water shortages, particularly dangerous to agriculture, forestry, public health and – in general – to the national economy have been discussed. The losses due to these risks as well as opportunities for counteracting are presented. The need to develop a strategy of integrated water management system basing on the systemic approach to solving problems of water shortages is the final conclusion emerging from the paper. This systemic approach must take into account the use of natural environmental capacity, appropriate planning of maximum structural diversity of landscape, as well as application of technical means. All these measures increase the duration of water sojourn in the landscape and improve the efficiency of water use.


water shortages; droughts; threats; opportunities to improve integrated water management

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