Czech experts recognised for water project aimed at returning landscape to mid-19th century

Photo: Pixabay / CC0

A water restoration project from the Czech Republic has been selected among the top 10 nominees for this year’s Stockholm Water Prize, known informally as the Nobel Prize of water. Created by the association Živá Voda, it shows how to retain water in the landscape by renewing the small water cycle.

Photo: Pixabay / CC0

Model Zdoňov, source: Archive of Jiří Malík
For the past few years, the Czech Republic has been facing an increasing drought, which has affected even the deepest layers of soil. While the Ministry of Agriculture proposes tackling the problem by building new water reservoirs, environmentalists warn there won’t be enough rainfall to fill them and propose less invasive measures to help retain water in the landscape.

One such project, called Model Zdoňov, has been created by the association Živá voda or The Living Water, which focuses primarily on water restoration by revitalizing rivers and floodplains.

Jiří Malík, photo: Barbora Linková, Czech Radio
Ecologist Jiří Malík, one of the people behind the project, says the aim is to return the landscape to where it was in the mid-19th century, when the hydrological regime wasn’t as disrupted as it is today.

“The hydrological regime has been disrupted mainly by intensive farming. There are vast fields without any hedgerows and the soil is compacted and full of chemicals.

“If we manage to revive the soil, we can capture large amounts of water that can exceed the volume of all the country’s water reservoirs.

“But the most important thing right now is to create a landscape plan for the whole of the Czech Republic, proposing measures to restore the landscape based on its type.”

Photo Archiv of the association Živá voda
To show how their theory works in practice, Jiří Malík and his colleagues from the Living Water association launched a pioneering project called Model Zdoňov.

For several years now, they have been restoring the system of marshlands, ponds and pools on an area of approximately 20 square kilometres along the Zdoňov stream in north-east Bohemia.

The key thing was to discontinue the system of draining the pastures, meadows and arable land by shutting down the network of drainage pipes, originally installed to help the farmers. The project has already received several ecological awards, and although it didn’t win the Stockholm Prize, just placing among shortlist of 10 is a great success, says Jiří Malík.

Stockholm Water Prize, photo: worldwaterweek, Flickr, CC BY 2.0
“It is a huge satisfaction for us. There are many projects focused on tackling the problem of drought, but they usually don’t involve the general public.

“So placing among the top 10 nominees means that the world really appreciates our know-how, which we provide to people and companies free-of charge.”

Jiří Malík says his plan for the restoration of the landscape is a universal one and can be easily replicated anywhere else in the Czech Republic and Europe.

The Living Water is currently organizing lectures and trainings, hoping that similar projects will soon be launched all around the Czech Republic.