Polish Waterways announces wave of changes in approach to water maintenance

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On February 2 this year. Waterways announced groundbreaking changes in its approach to water maintenance. They resonated on social media. There was a bipartisan response, ranging from skeptical comments to compliments. Why does the water maintenance problem stir up so much excitement? Let’s check it out!

Waterways, faced with the growing challenges of climate change, drought, flooding and pollution, has announced changes in its approach to river maintenance. The new strategy aims to protect water resources through the implementation of good practices and a sustainable approach to riverbed encroachment. The announced redirection is aimed at an integrated approach to water management that will take into account ecohydrology, compliance with the EU Water Framework Directive, and the protection of water as our common heritage. The president of the Polish Water Authority, Joanna Kopczynska, stressed that water is not a commercial commodity, but a precious resource that requires responsible protection.

Water maintenance – cooperation and good practices

Mateusz Balcerowicz, deputy chairman of the President’s Office of the National Security Council. The head of the Flood and Drought Protection in Polish Water, noted that the key to success is cooperation between water management workers, scientists and community organizations. On World Wetlands Day, Watersheds announced on its social media the mandatory use of good water maintenance practices when planning and conducting maintenance and investment works. Examples of such activities include. in catalogs and manuals produced on behalf of the administration in previous years. These include:

  • A catalog of good practices in the field of hydroelectric works and maintenance works with the establishment of rules for their implementation, a guide for investors implementing projects in the field of maintenance works and hydroelectric works (April 2018);
  • Water renaturalization. Handbook of good practices for surface water restoration, in which the concept and methods of restoration of rivers, lakes and transitional and coastal waters in Poland appear (April, 2020);

and a study that was created by the WWF Poland Foundation and the National Water Management Authority in 2018:

  • Good river maintenance practices, in which up-to-date knowledge has been compiled to understand natural river processes and the risks carried by maintenance work. The goal of the publication is to promote a sustainable approach to river management and suggest good practices and principles to maintain rivers in a human-transformed landscape (August 2018.

Water management – environmentally friendly investments

Watersheds emphasize the importance of investments adapted to changing climate needs. This approach offers the possibility of obtaining funds from the new EU financial perspective for 2021-2027. Joanna Kopczynska points out that implementing good practices will be key in applying for funds to modernize water management, which is expected to make it more resilient to the effects of climate change.

Piotr Bednarek of the “Free Rivers” organization also spoke about the need to change the approach to maintaining watercourses in Poland in this issue of Water Matters: We need to stop doing maintenance work on thousands of kilometers of rivers. Of course, they are needed in conflict areas, but there are not as many such points as we think. Most of the interventions involve digging up the river with backhoes, mowing vegetation in it or pulling dead wood out of the riverbeds, and are carried out pointlessly. We are losing out financially and destroying biodiversity.

Wave of change in approach to water maintenance – a bipartisan vote among the public

The news of the new approach by the Polish Waters has sparked numerous discussions on social media, where skeptical voices are mixed with opinions expressing hope for an improvement in Poland’s resources. Among the information about what, where and how much has been neglected in recent years, there are also voices according to which good practices are not enough, because they are just a set of wishes and demands, which is then brutally verified in practice.

Polish Water has been accused of lacking clear guidelines in the form of laws and regulations, as well as information on funding mechanisms or regulation of ownership. The need to work with experts is also emphasized. Among these voices, however, there are also resounding expressions of appreciation and belief that this is the beginning of change for the better. The disagreement of opinions and the temperature of the discussion underscore the importance of the topic of water management in Poland.

The Polish Water Initiative is certainly the right step towards sustainable and responsible water management, which aims not only to protect against floods and drought, but also to improve ecosystems. Although the venture has been met with mixed public reactions, it is a clear signal that environmental issues are among the priorities of Poland’s water resources management authorities. And as you can see (and hear) a large part of the population as well.

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