Hydrogeological drought in Poland – a challenge for water resources

Susza hydrogeologiczna

In recent years there has been a growing drought problem affecting many regions around the world, including Poland. In addition to the visible effects of a lack of precipitation, such as low water levels in rivers and soil dryness, groundwater is also experiencing shortages.

A groundwater drought occurs when there is a regional decrease in groundwater levels following a period of rainfall deficiency. It is characterized by a reduction in the amount of groundwater, and is usually preceded by the previous three types of drought.

Hydrogeological drought – causes

Hydrogeological drought in Poland is a complex problem that results from a wide variety of factors. Insufficient rainfall is one of the main reasons for this situation. In recent years, there have been increasing fluctuations in the amount and distribution of precipitation, leading to water shortages in regions fed by groundwater resources.

The increase in water demand is another major factor exacerbating the problem. The rapid growth of industry, agriculture and households is resulting in the use of water resources beyond the natural capacity to replenish them. As a result of intensive use of groundwater to meet the needs of various sectors of the economy, there is a deficit, especially during periods of drought.

Hydrogeological drought is associated with improper agricultural practices. Excessive irrigation or cultivation of crops with high water requirements contribute to outright thievery of water resources.

In addition, land use changes are critical to groundwater resources. Hydrogeological drought is exacerbated by urbanization processes, such as the development of urban infrastructure and the reduction of naturally retentive surfaces, which reduce the landscape’s ability to retain rainwater. As a result, soil erosion and rapid surface water runoff increase, making it difficult to replenish groundwater supplies, and hydrogeological drought can be a consequence.

All the factors mentioned are interrelated and interact with each other, creating a state of hydrogeological drought in Poland. A holistic approach that includes water resources management, modification of practices in the economic and agricultural sectors, and land-use planning that takes into account the protection and restoration of natural water resources is needed to effectively address the problem. Educating the public about the efficient use of groundwater plays a key role in the long-term sustainable management of this precious resource. Otherwise, the effects of hydrogeological drought can be very serious.

Hydrogeological drought – the severity of its effects

Hydrogeologic drought results in lower groundwater levels. When it drops below natural levels, many ecosystems face threats. Wetlands, lakes, rivers and streams suffer from lack of adequate water supply, leading to habitat degradation, reduced biodiversity and loss of unique plant and animal species.

Water shortages can lead to lower crop yields, which negatively affects farmers and the food chain. Desiccation of fields and limited water supply for plants can lead to soil depletion, reduced crop quality and reduced agricultural production options. As a result, farmers are losing their crops, which means a decrease in food production and an increase in prices.

Reduced availability of potable water can lead to the need for restrictive water conservation measures, which directly affects our comfort and daily functioning. Lack of water can also have a negative impact on industry, especially those industries that depend on water resources, such as energy, manufacturing, food processing and tourism.

Hydrogeological drought – is Poland susceptible?

Certain areas of our country, due to their geological structure, hydrogeological conditions and human activities, are particularly susceptible to the occurrence of lowered groundwater levels.

One of the most important factors is the shallow occurrence of the first aquifer (groundwater) and its low conductivity. Such areas may be more susceptible to hydrogeological lows, as even small fluctuations in water levels can lead to water shortages.

The effects of a lowering of the groundwater table, which is a natural phenomenon, are often compounded by human activity. An example of such a situation is Wielkopolska, which, due to climatic conditions as well as geological structure and hydrogeological conditions, is naturally prone to more frequent droughts. In addition, there is open-pit lignite mining in the area, which requires dewatering and adversely affects groundwater levels.

Land use management also has a significant impact on groundwater levels. In heavily sealed areas, rainwater cannot effectively infiltrate into the soil and runs off the land surface. In such situations, both droughts and floods have more noticeable effects because natural retention and infiltration processes are limited.

In recent years, Poland has experienced several severe cases of hydrogeological drought. Regions such as Lower Silesia, Lublin and Western Pomerania were particularly vulnerable to deficits. Remedial measures have been taken there, such as reducing water extraction, promoting efficiency in water use and educating the public about resource conservation.

Hydrogeological situation forecast

There is a developed system for monitoring and forecasting hydrogeological drought. Based on data from groundwater level monitoring stations, which are distributed throughout the country, this type of drought is controlled on an ongoing basis by the National Geological Institute-State Research Institute.

Currently, the unfavorable hydrogeological situation applies to the Pomorskie and Zachodniopomorskie, as well as Wielkopolskie and Kujawsko-Pomorskie provinces. On a smaller scale, problems may also exist in other areas of the country, in the provinces of Warmia, Podlasie, Lubuskie, Mazovia and Lodz, as well as Lower Silesia, Silesia and Lesser Poland.

In the aforementioned provinces, as a result of hydrogeological drought and lowering of the groundwater table, water supply from shallow groundwater intakes (individual farm wells) and municipal intakes exploiting the first aquifer may be hampered.

Poland’s hydrogeological drought poses a serious challenge to our water resources. In order to effectively manage this problem, action is needed at various levels – individual, local, regional and global. Water conservation, resource efficiency, public education and investment in alternative water sources are essential for the future of our resources.

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