Rainwater – changing thinking about rainwater

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Rainwater, freely soaking into the ground, is an important part of flood control and drought prevention. However, dynamic urban sprawl is taking its toll – green spaces and local natural water bodies are being eliminated. The consequences of these actions are enormous and increasingly being felt.

From an audit conducted by the Supreme Audit Office in the local governments of the Małopolska and Silesia provinces in 2014. shows that as many as 286 (82%) municipalities between 2011 and 2014 did not take any measures to make their residents aware of the importance of water retention, and almost 25% of them were unaware of provincial small retention plans or could not confirm that they had such knowledge. Fortunately, awareness is growing.

Changing thinking about rainwater

A sizable revolution changing the thinking and approach to rainwater came with the introduction of the Water Law (i.e., the Act of July 20, 2017 Water Law, Journal of Laws of 2017, item 1566). Under the new guidelines, the definition of wastewater no longer includes rainwater and snowmelt in open or closed sewer systems. This seemingly small change has had noticeable consequences: from the issue of collecting drainage fees to thinking of rainwater as a valuable resource.

Sustainable rainwater management requires a broader view of water issues in the context of the entire catchment and both anthropogenic and natural processes, as well as taking into account the system of watercourses and reservoirs, geological structure, intensity of precipitation, and management in the catchment, and therefore urbanization processes. It is not insignificant to continuously raise awareness and knowledge of local governments in the context of small-scale retention planning, and to educate and involve residents in the process of rainwater management.

Awareness is increasing, unfortunately this is not matched by the most up-to-date knowledge of climate change. A survey conducted last year on a group of Pomeranian entrepreneurs shows that this knowledge is at a 2+ rating. This is still not enough to be effective. Therefore, in our projects Climate Manifesto and MapRetention we bring audiences closer to smart retention solutions and educate them on what each of us can do in our own backyard or balcony. At the same time, we show the real benefits of catching rainwater – not only in the climate context, which is key, but also in the economic context” – says Sylwia Molewska, president of the Business for Climate Foundation.

And the economic context is concrete. Rainwater used in the household, can reduce water consumption by up to half. This is a serious argument for “catching rain.” Rainwater is soft and therefore good for washing and rinsing, ideal for watering. When properly prepared, it can be used for the following purposes: gardening, sanitation and even washing. In these cases, the water does not need to be specially filtered, and it collects and stores practically by itself. By installing a pump system, it can be used in several places and at different levels (for example, to supply a garden hose or flush a toilet).

It’s not just about saving money

In Poland, up to 70% of the water that falls on the earth’s surface evaporates. The rest of it, at different rates and through different routes, flows gradually into the sea or is retained in soil, ice or snow, among other things, as well as in living organisms. More than 90% of our country’s land area lies outside river valleys and is vulnerable to drought. That’s why it’s crucial that we, aware of the dangers of climate change, take care of retention.

The fact that we face problems can be seen every year. When warmer days and prolonged lack of precipitation arrive, watering of lawns and home gardens on a massive scale begins. This causes pressure drops in the water supply network and problems in normal water use, and even temporary “turning off the taps.” Every year, municipalities publish appeals and sometimes even bans on the use of tap water for purposes other than welfare.

In 2022. On the map, which is created by Dr. Sebastian Szklarek, founder of the World Water portal, 365 points were placed – in as many municipalities there was a threat of a break in the supply of drinking water. In the face of such facts, taking care of rainwater must become commonplace.

Rainwater or drop to drop

We have to start with the sources. And the source of water in Poland is precipitation, rain, and not its inflow by rivers. Therefore, the essence of any action we should carry out is to stop precipitation where it falls to the ground. This is, against all odds, a consistent measure whether it is drought or flood. These are not opposing problems.” – argued during the debate of the daily newspaper Rzeczpospolita Jacek Zalewski, director of RetencjaPL and an expert at the Business for Climate Foundation, specializing in rainwater management.

Building and promoting commitment to the topic of small-scale retention is desperately needed. Spreading the idea of rainwater retention not only among residents, but also among local government officials, seems to be a key issue in the context of ever-shrinking drinking water supplies.

Created by the Business for the Climate Foundation, the map is designed to show the tremendous power of small-scale retention. It posts information about reservoirs, ponds or ponds that are not created by baffling rivers and streams. There are also smaller and larger domestic retention tanks. The information collected is used to calculate the potential we have and thus emphatically indicate that every drop retained in the ground contributes to improving water management in Poland. And this improvement is in our mutual interest.

At the time of writing this article, the total retention volume of all sites on the map was nearly 64,000m3. Information on retention reservoirs in their area is provided by both individuals and cities.

Model cities supporting small-scale retention

City of Krakow since 2014. Provides targeted grants for the construction of systems for collecting and using rainwater and snowmelt as part of Krakow’s micro-retention (including above-ground and underground reservoirs). Our map included a great number of places from Krakow and the surrounding area where rainwater is collected. We know that this is an incomplete list, the city continues to provide funding and support for residents to “catch” the rain. We dare say that at the moment it is the “most retentive” city in Poland.

Gdynia, too, has been taking measures to promote retention and use of rainwater for many years.

The city is subsidizing investments for small-scale retention, among them:

  • Closed garden systems for rainwater (above-ground and underground tanks);
  • Rain gardens in container or ground;
  • retention and drainage facilities;
  • retention ponds and open retention and retention-filtration reservoirs;
  • Permeable surfaces for paths and driveways.

Below are examples of implementations from Gdynia.

Rainwater - changing thinking about rainwater 1

Do you collect rainwater in your garden or have a tank on your balcony? Join the retention map. Inspire others to take action!

It’s all in our hands

Changes in approaches to stormwater management are evident at both the national and local levels, but they are proceeding too slowly. Regulations that force residents to change their behavior and impose additional financial burdens on them have provided an opportunity to revise existing social attitudes. This will certainly contribute to a better recognition of the phenomenon itself, as well as to the acceptance by local governments and residents of solutions to take care of water as a priceless resource and thus better adapt to the effects of climate change.

Photo source: https://manifestklimatyczny.pl

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