Czech Republic faces drought conditions but crisis still distant

Berounka, photo: CTK

Tropical heatwaves that we have seen over the past few weeks have been drying up rivers and reservoirs across the Czech Republic. The majority of the country’s rivers are down to fifty percent of normal levels and in some cases, such as Lužnice in South Bohemia, water levels have dropped to a mere 10 percent.

Berounka,  photo: CTK
I spoke to the deputy head of the Czech Hydro-Meteorological Institute Jan Daňhelka and I first asked him just how serious the situation was at the moment.

“The majority of streams are now on discharges below 50 percent for the average July levels. If I should compare it to some previous situation, I think the year 2003, which was the last really extremely dry year in the Czech Republic, is a pretty nice analogue to the current situation.

“But it has to be said that the drought in 2003 had developed throughout the whole summer, so we have still not reached same levels as in that year but we definitely follow a similar trend.”

What exactly is causing the situation, is it the lack of rainfall?

“Absolutely, the last month with above-average precipitation was March this year and together with relatively low snow accumulation during the winter, we have started from very low levels concerning stream discharges. We also didn’t have any serious spring flood, which is normal for the Czech Republic.

“And then of course the situation continued with below average precipitation, which has continued since April till July, so far. Together with high temperatures that we have been experiencing in the past three or four weeks, the evaporation levels are definitely exceeding the precipitation.”

Jan Daňhelka,  photo: Šárka Ševčíková
What kind of problems is the drought causing? What kind of damages can the agriculture industry suffer if the dry spell continues?

“I am not an expert in evaluating impacts on agriculture but it looks like the drought has developed quite favourably so far, since the demand for precipitation and water is not the same during the growth season. So the current lack of precipitation is not as limiting as it would be in April or May.

“But of course we are experiencing other impacts, for instance on tourism, especially on canoeing, which is very popular in the Czech Republic. The water is very low so the popular routes on the rivers cannot be navigated on small boats. Also there will be definitely damage on hydro-power generation due to lack of water and of course we shouldn’t forget the eco-systems that also suffer from the lack of water.”

What measures can the government to get ready for the possible lack of water?

“Actually the Czech Republic doesn’t have something like a national drought management in place. But thanks to the long development of water management in the history of the Czech Republic we have lots of resources that are pretty safe concerning the delivery of water.

Želivka,  photo: Martin Němec
“So when it comes to supply of drinking water, majority of population, about 95 percent, is supplied by the public resources that are very well managed and are able to cover one or even two or three consecutive dry years.

“The last time we suffered extreme drought was in the early 1990s, when we saw three very dry years. But even then, the water reservoir Želivka, which supplies water to Prague, was able to cover all the demands. And the water supply infrastructure developed even further since then. So there is no need to worry that we wouldn’t have enough drinking water in the Czech Republic this year.”