Prescription for protective areas of inland water reservoirs – a monograph for theoreticians and practitioners

obszary ochronne

When we talk about surface water, most of us think: rivers, as if forgetting that water resources are formed by other categories of water, including lakes. The lakes are mostly talked about in spring and summer, when the tourist season kicks off. After all, it is a great place to relax, swim, sail or camp. But let’s not forget that lakes are a fairly important part of surface water resources. How much? Exactly how much water is retained in lakes and marshes is difficult to determine, but estimates of water retention in lakes and marshes put it at 17.4 km3, with all lakes larger than 50 hectares accumulating 16.6 km3. And like rivers, lakes are also subject to laws that mandate that they be at least in good condition.

The Water Law fortunately does not forget about lakes and in Article 141 introduces a tool dedicated to protecting lake water resources from degradation – the “protection area of inland water bodies.” The tool is difficult to implement and has so far been little used, not least because of the complexity of the accompanying formal and legal conditions and the lack of a unified methodological approach.

In 2021, the publishing house of the Institute of Environmental Protection – State Research Institute published a multi-author monograph entitled Protection areas for inland water reservoirs – natural aspects and formal and legal considerations[1], which presents an approach to the designation of such areas. I had the pleasure of co-authoring this publication. And since (in the words of Antyradio) “self-promotion does not disgrace,” I would like to introduce readers of Water Issues to this monograph. So as not to be an advocate in my own case, I will rely on two reviews of this item, prepared by recognized authorities in the field of water conservation – Prof. Ph. Agnieszka Ławniczak-Malińska [AŁM] from the University of Life Sciences in Poznań, and prof. Ph. Eng. Tomasz Heese [TH] from Koszalin University of Technology.

The formal basis for the creation of the monograph

[AŁM] “The monograph is based on a study resulting from work commissioned by the State Water Management Company Wody Polskie, Regionalny Zarząd Gospodarki Wodnej w Poznaniu, to develop documentation for the establishment of protection areas for inland water reservoirs in relation to three lakes: Niedzięgiel, Chłop and Szarcz.”

[TH] “The monographs are subtitled Documentation of the lakes of the water regions of the Noteć and Warta: Niedzięgiel, Chłop and Szarcz. This is important because it draws attention to the location of the lakes under analysis. Which is further justified because the affiliation of water regions was changed during the period of preparation of the monograph.”

What does the monograph contain?

[AŁM] “The work covers 175 pages, divided into 11 chapters, containing an introduction, the legal basis for the creation of water reservoir protection areas, the methodology and results of the study, a catalog of prohibitions, orders and restrictions with their scope of application, along with justification and an in-depth analysis of the possibility of their introduction. The monograph concludes with two chapters including a summary and bibliography. The monograph contains three key elements: a methodology for designating protection areas for inland surface water bodies, documentation for the analyzed lakes, their drainage basins and protection areas, and a formal and legal analysis of the proposed protection measures along with an analysis of the benefits and socio-economic effects of their implementation.”

[TH] “The work covers with its content several fields of knowledge: from environmental protection, especially water, to limnology, environmental chemistry, geology and geography. Such a study, by its very nature, must be typically interdisciplinary in nature. The paper includes a number of original results and in-house analysis. With a very rich review of the literature, an extremely valuable publication has been created. The work is of a practical nature and is a kind of guide for those developing lake protection areas. (…)

A glossary of terms and abbreviations is included at the beginning of the monograph. A very good solution, especially since we will find new concepts here, such as a wild bathing area. Formally there are no such facilities, they are not described in legal documents. But in this case, they are clearly defined.”

[AŁM] “The introduction addresses issues concerning the main sources of pollution generated in lake catchments, related to wastewater management, agriculture, urbanization, hydromorphological pressure, also taking into account tourism and recreation. An important section of this part of the study deals with the role of areas in the immediate vicinity of the lakes, the so-called “lakes”. Ecotone zones, in lake protection.”

[TH] “Using very well-chosen examples, it was pointed out that conservation areas for the most valuable lakes should be designated and established first. The loss of natural values of such lakes may be irreversible! Universal use of water, guaranteed by law, cannot mean a lack of a sustainable approach. This balanced approach is precisely what the authors of the evaluated monograph have presented. Designating conservation areas is the best solution for protecting valuable ecosystems. Ecosystem service issues were addressed to some extent, although here they were not explicitly identified. Perhaps there will be an opportunity for another monograph…”

[AŁM] “A separate chapter is devoted to the legal conditions for establishing an inland water body protection area as a tool for water conservation. This chapter addresses the formal aspects of creating such zones, with an indication of the changes that have occurred as a result of the Water Law of July 20, 2017, which is currently in force. (Journal of Laws of 2020, item 310, as amended) and the requirements to be met.

The methodology of the work is divided into subsections covering the method of analysis: the characteristics of the lake and its catchment area, the identification of anthropogenic pressures in the catchment area of the studied lakes and the assessment of their impact on water levels, the delimitation of the extent of the lake protection area and the zones of prohibitions, orders and restrictions, as well as the formal-legal analysis of the measures proposed to be implemented in the protection areas.

The layout of the subsections with the results of the work is a consequence of the layout of the subsections adopted in the methodology. The methods used are appropriate, based on analysis of cartographic materials, data obtained from state institutions, studies and scientific publications. The formal-legal conditions for the use of water and land, as well as the measures proposed to be implemented in the protection areas, were described based on detailed field reconnaissance and analysis of the formal-legal and planning documents listed in the work. (…)

The results of the work include an analysis of the condition of the lakes and their natural values, climatological, limnological and catchment characteristics, as well as an in-depth analysis of the pressures observed both in the studied bodies of water and in their catchment areas. The authors explain in detail how to interpret the results presented, including. The state of the lakes in terms of their ecological status assessed on the basis of biological and supporting elements (physico-chemical and hydromorphological) and chemical status.

This can be helpful in assessing and classifying the condition of other lenitic aquatic ecosystems. The material is well analyzed and presented, providing a high scientific level for the work, while meeting the criteria for an original scientific work.

The monograph is based on the analysis of extensive data, which provides a basis for proper inference. The chapters covering the catalog of prohibitions, orders and restrictions, as well as the formal-legal analysis of the measures to be introduced, along with the valuation of the proposed solutions, I rate the highest in the entire work, due to their utilitarian and innovative nature.

The rationale for the proposed solutions in the three spatial zones has been carefully prepared, taking into account the formal-legal possibilities for their implementation, restrictions on their implementation, as well as possible enforcement that may result from non-compliance with the proposed prohibitions or as consequences of their implementation. The solutions have been well thought out and properly characterized.”

[TH] “A catalog of prohibitions and orders and restrictions is presented in a modern and very clear way, with the reasons for them. In the last chapter we will read about practical ways to use them, along with an assessment of the socio-economic impact. I find this part of the work particularly valuable. (…)

Currently, the catalog of prohibitions and orders includes nineteen works or activities that may cause permanent pollution of land or water and should be prohibited or restricted in protection areas. (…) The authors propose new, additional prohibitions not included in the catalog in Art. 140 of the Water Law. They indicate the legitimate need for their introduction with a breakdown of their proposed zones. They recognized (and rightly so) that these measures would achieve environmental goals. In addition, they propose to introduce eight measures in the buffer zone, two in the coastal zone and four in the total catchment area. This contribution to the work is innovative, and it is necessary to ensure that these measures are included in the provisions of the Water Law.”

Conclusions of the monograph

[TH] “The monograph presents an original approach to dealing with the designation of lake protection areas. Existing laws have been used for this purpose, and new proposals have been introduced so that the effectiveness of the measures is sound and the new laws can be enforced. A law is effective when it is understood by its audience, in this case the local administration, residents and tourists. In practice, the ecological services provided by a “clean” tank include a much larger group. For example, anglers or water sports enthusiasts who are also on the water outside the typical tourist season. (…)

The monograph is not only a very valuable source of information about the lakes and their catchment areas discussed, but above all it is a guide of sorts. Recipients of such work should be not only scientific centers, but also agricultural advisory organizations, local governments, especially those with plans to increase ecological services linked to water reservoirs. The work is written in an understandable and readable manner, and only in places, where it was necessary, saturated with scientific terms. (…)

One of the most valuable messages of the monograph is to convince the reader that protection areas should be established first for lakes with an ecological status of very good, good or close to good, and exposed to pressures from the direct catchment. Another important topic is the attempt to quantify the level of transformation in the littoral zone, especially the coastal zone, which is not easy to capture.

The suggestion that a shoreline conversion of more than 15% of its length would classify a lake as a heavily altered water body is apt, and this information is easily managed as a limiting factor for further pressures (once called stressors). Another very important consideration is the practice of taking the boundaries of land parcels as the baseline for zoning areas. Activities in planning work must be spatially verified, and the main obstacle is the morphological elements of the lake.”

[AŁM] “The literature on lake protection methods lacks an item on the methodological approach to the creation of water reservoir protection areas, and therefore this monograph will be a valuable item filling this gap. I evaluate the analysis of the conditions and possibilities of creating protection areas based on the selected three water bodies as an asset of this work. It provides an opportunity to relate the proposed solutions to specific facilities, while pointing out the limitations of the proposed measures.

The methodology proposed by the authors for designating protected areas of inland surface water bodies is factually correct, but also usable by others planning to implement such areas around lakes. In my opinion, it would also be valuable to analyze the environmental and legal conditions in the case of pressures other than those shown in the monograph, such as the extraction of minerals (including gravel), along with an analysis of the impact on the lake ecosystem due to the frequency of their occurrence. It is only an encouragement to the authors to take action in this area in the future.”


[TH] “The study is a very thorough analysis of the potential benefits of introducing lake protection areas. The most valuable part of the work is the formal-legal analysis of the proposed conservation measures and the socio-economic benefits and impacts resulting from their implementation. Noteworthy, the proposed environmental protection instruments and solutions adopted are pioneering in Poland. The authors, as they have often emphasized, are aware that the inclusion of a lake in a protection area is a logistically, formally and legally difficult task, so they propose a gradual implementation in the form of a pilot program.”

[AŁM] “In conclusion, the monograph submitted for review, prepared on the example of three lakes, is an innovative study of how to create protective zones around water bodies. I highly appreciate the reflection of the scope of the research conducted to the current legislation, which makes this item extremely necessary. It is a kind of guide for conducting work on the creation of protection zones.

I fully agree with the authors that the creation of a protection area for water reservoirs is a new and difficult task, not only logistically, formally and legally, but also may meet with public resistance due to the high attractiveness of the land around the lakes for development. Without a doubt, conservation areas are extremely important for the preservation of good surface water and should be designated around all water bodies. This monograph is a swallow for such activities.

I hope that it will inspire all those interested in improving the condition of our waters, including the state administration, to continue working towards water protection and shaping spatial order with respect for natural assets.”

[1] Pasztaleniec A., Kolada A., Kutyla S., Bielczynska A., Nowak B., Hobot A., Dziura A., 2021. Protection areas of inland water reservoirs – natural aspects and formal and legal considerations. Published by IOŚ-PIB, Warsaw, ISBN: 978 83-60312 84-1, pp. 182.

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