June is the last month of school activities, but it is also the month in which appeals (bans) for restrictions on the use of tap water are announced annually. The map of appeals, collecting these announcements, is created for the fifth consecutive year. The first time (2019) 392 municipalities were on it, a year later there were 208. In 2021. 335 municipalities have been identified, and in 2022. The counter stopped at 366 administrative units. These values range from 8.2% to 15.8% of all municipalities in Poland. The map of appeals is a graphical form that allows you to easily and clearly show the spatial occurrence of threats. Five years of following the appeals announced and the comments under them in the media allows us to draw several conclusions.
Map of appeals – conclusions of its analysis
First, as the map of appeals shows, the problem of pressure drops that underlies the announcement of bans mainly affects rural and rural-urban municipalities. It is the result of designing the water supply network with a smaller reserve than is the case in large concentrations of people. The reasons for this situation include. a smaller number of network users per kilometer of network length, and therefore higher construction, maintenance and upgrade costs than in cities. Also, municipal budgets are incomparable to municipal budgets, causing some necessary investments to be delayed.
Second, climate change and its consequences. In this case, higher temperatures and increasingly frequent droughts highlight problems and inadequacies in water management, including drinking water supply. The appeal map created each year illustrates this very well, as the onset of drought and hot weather during the growing season is a signal that in a short while municipalities will be communicating restrictions on tap water use en masse – as can be seen in the 2022 situation chart below.
Third, it seems that appeals or bans are not having the desired effect. Still, during droughts, potable water is dumped en masse on lawns and home gardens or smaller acreages of crops, which not only causes a drop in pressure for current users, but also limits the availability of a valuable resource for future generations. In addition, messages are also increasingly stating that stealing water from hydrants is illegal and carries penalties. The map of appeals should be a widely distributed document, as this form is readable to a wide audience.
Consequences of irrational water use – now and in the future
Most of Poland’s tap water is deep groundwater intake, a resource that takes decades or hundreds of years to form. Technologically, we are able to install additional intakes and pump more water to the surface for this short time of the year, but when it starts to run out, we face a drastic increase in price due to going deeper and deeper or to other sources, such as surface water (much more polluted, so it is more expensive to treat them).
For the above reasons, there is increasing talk of the need to raise water prices. Maybe not all of it, because the price of one of the basic resources needed for life cannot be too high for the poorest. But the already many times higher rate for water used above the basic minimum is becoming more and more feasible (progressive water pricing). Then all water recovery technologies will become more important, so it is worth developing them now to make them not only efficient, but also cost-effective. Closed-loop technologies, regardless of the reason – rising water prices or increasingly difficult access to adequate quantity and quality of water – are the right way to develop and conserve precious groundwater resources, which should provide a reserve of drinking water now and in the future.