Czech scientists urge politicians to take action against drought

Photo: Jeroen Moes, CC BY-SA 2.0

Extreme weather conditions, such as the current droughts, are likely to become a regular feature in the Czech Republic in the future. But scientists say the Czech government is not doing enough to address the problem. In an open letter addressed to Czech politicians, experts urge lawmakers to step up their efforts in dealing with water management and drought.

Photo: Jeroen Moes,  CC BY-SA 2.0
“We are deeply concerned by the unfavourable development concerning water management in this country, which is solely dependent on precipitation,” a group of scientists from the Czech Limnological Society writes in an open letter addressed to the Czech political leadership.

Experts are calling for a major improvement of the country’s water management policy that would take into account the landscape as a whole. According to them, the Czech landscape has lost the ability to retain water which has resulted in increasingly frequent droughts and floods as well as faster climate warming.

Martin Rulík is a hydrologist from Palacký University in Olomouc and the head of the Czech Limnological Society:

“We want to point out that while water affects the landscape, the landscape also affects the behaviour of water. For instance forests are important water reservoirs and contribute to water circulation in the landscape.

“Soil also has the capacity to retain precipitation. Unfortunately, our soil has been degraded by years of intensive farming and no longer has the capacity to soak up rainwater.

“If we want to solve the problem of water in the landscape, we cannot treat it as a separate issue. We have to take into account the landscape as a whole, including soil, forests as well as rivers and lakes.”

According to Mr. Rulík, the Czech landscape is still paying for years of collective farming introduced by the Communist regime, when smaller river flows were artificially straightened, while on larger rivers, dams were built excessively.

As a result, water in larger rivers is often too still and its quality keeps decreasing, while water in smaller streams runs too fast and doesn’t have time to soak into the soil.

Martin Rulík,  photo: archive of Palacký University in Olomouc
In the past years, municipalities have taken various measures to deal with increasingly frequent droughts, introducing bans on using mains water for watering plant, filling swimming pools or washing cars. But experts say such steps cannot make any significant difference.

According to Martin Rulík, the situation will continue to get worse unless the government adopts far-reaching policy changes:

“There are a number of things to be done. There is for instance the anti-erosion regulation, aiming to improve quality of the soil, which hasn’t been approved yet.

“We also need to make amendments to the Water Act, because there are still people who don’t have to pay for using water, such as owners of snow cannons. So there are a number of priorities that need to be addressed by the lower house of Parliament.”

The open letter was addressed to politicians and other scientists but its authors say they also want to spread awareness of the problem among the general public.