Water services and flood protection

usługi wodne

In the current state of the law, the a priori principle of the applicable conditions for the use of water is not to deteriorate its condition and the condition of the ecosystems that depend on it. This should be reflected in the findings of the Basin Plan. It is the duty of all users, regardless of use, to rationally manage water in a way that does not waste a valuable resource, and does not generate damage (in accordance with the principles of sustainable development).

The scope of recommended measures to protect against flooding (unfortunately, only in receivers and river valleys) is determined by flood risk management plans. They introduce bans and restrictions on the conditions for using water and locating new facilities in areas of special flood risk.

Unfortunately, none of the above-mentioned policy documents answer questions about the principles of handling water at the point of rainfall generation (in urban areas), and where protection against the occurrence of flood damage can be carried out through land retention or blue-green infrastructure.

The current regulations and programs also do not provide guidance on stormwater management in drainage systems, ways to improve their operation and use of resources and services.

Drainage conditions in the catchment during floods

In the era of climate change, the progressive development of cities and suburban catchments through the sealing of more and more green spaces has an adverse effect on water relations and contributes to an increase in the intensity of surface runoff. The consequences are changes in drainage conditions in the catchment and a violation of the environmental balance of water systems. There is then an acceleration of runoff over impervious areas and an overloading of the sewer network.

The establishment of general rules for water retention, the use of appropriate legal and financial instruments, in accordance with the preamble to the Water Framework Directive, were considered as a remedy to inhibit this process.

Water services in the quantitative aspect – legal considerations

The implementation of the new water management policy came with water reform. It came into force on July 20, 2017, along with the Water Law, which included regulations on the so-called ” Water Law”. water services and related fees.

According to Art. 35 para. 3(7) of the Law, a water use that is not ordinary, common or special, involving the discharge of rainwater or snowmelt into waters or water facilities (included in open or closed storm or combined sewer systems) constitutes a water service for which a water permit is required. Such an obligation also applies to outlets, i.e. water facilities for discharging water into waters, into the ground and into water facilities.

The conduct of such activities involves the obligation to pay fees, the amount, method of calculation, payment and possible sanctions of which are determined by Wody Polskie under Art. 398 of the Water Law. Charges for water services have been divided into the so-called “water service fees. fixed, calculated on the basis of the amount of water input on average per day inm3/s, and variable, which depends on the existing water retention system from sealed areas and relates to the discharge of rainwater or snowmelt captured in open or closed storm or combined sewer systems in cities.

In order to improve drainage conditions in the catchment area, water service fees shall also be paid if natural terrain retention is reduced as a result of performing on a property with an area of more than 3,500m2 works or construction facilities permanently attached to the land that exclude more than 7% of the property’s area from natural terrain retention. In this case, the authority responsible for calculating the fee is the mayor of the city. Emphasizing the importance of managing water on site, the legislature has introduced an exemption from these fees for roadways of public roads and railroads from which rainwater or snowmelt is discharged by means of water facilities that allow retention or infiltration.

As part of the management control carried out by the Polish Waterways, the entity discharging rainwater or snowmelt water is obliged to use measuring instruments or systems and provide the results of conducted measurements of the amount and temperature of discharged rainwater (in the amount of daily average above 0.01 m3/s) to the extent specified in the water permit (usually once a year).

Problems and challenges

The functioning system of rainwater management, based on fees for water services and water use, as the experience of past years has shown, generates administrative and legal problems. The observed excess of bureaucracy and discrepancies in the interpretation of regulations cause problems in the decentralization of rainfall runoff management, hinder flood protection, as well as the implementation of low retention measures in cities.

There is a lack of monitoring of the effects of the implemented law and objective evaluations of the effectiveness of the current rainwater management system. We do not know whether the retention basins, drainage ditches and storm sewers constructed years ago have adequate capacity in the context of the expected increase in peak flows due to the sealing of the catchment and ongoing climate change. Effective stormwater management using water services is impossible in the absence of knowledge of the system’s condition and operation.

As a result, despite the introduction of the new solutions, only 10% of the revenue for water services from the reduction of natural retention constitutes revenue for the municipality. Thus, it is impossible to implement other measures, such as small-scale retention, to reduce the risk of flooding or waterlogging. The remaining 90% of the payments go to the budget of the Water Authority. They were intended to provide a level of funding adequate to the needs arising from the need to maintain water and investments in water management. The evaluation of the effectiveness of the activities carried out is debatable in light of the growing problems associated with the water crisis, in the absence of effective solutions and economic instruments to manage water resources

Stormwater management is not integrated and coordinated with spatial planning at the local level, thus generating significant losses due to the occurrence of flooding and waterlogging. Existing flood risk management plans, which focus solely on rivers and do not address the genesis and progression of flash floods or local flash floods, are not applicable to stormwater management based on the water service fee system. There is a lack of effective communication and cooperation between entities carrying out various tasks, from the Polish Water Authority to local governments and business entities.

In light of the growing problems of water resources in quantitative terms, it seems crucial to create a coherent and long-term strategy, combining the interests and needs of all water users, for its effective implementation and monitoring of effects. In light of the above, one of the water industry’s biggest challenges is to ensure the renewability of resources for future generations by implementing policies based on catchment management and influencing urban development to reduce the risks of flooding and waterlogging.

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