Poland needs to save water for non-rainy day

Photo: AFP

Hundreds of rivers and in Poland are drying up little by little.

According to experts, the central European country of 38 million people risks a serious water crisis in the coming years.

Poland's Supreme Audit Office (NIK) warned in a recent report that already there is only 1,600 cubic metres of water available for each Pole per year, which is only slightly more than the EU average.

Crucial reservoirs

The shortages are triggering social conflict.

Residents of Sulmierzyce in central Poland accuse a local open pit brown coal mine of syphoning off water.

In Podkowa Lesna, a small leafy town near Warsaw, resident are up in arms against their neighbours in nearby Zolwin, whom they accuse of using too much water from a common source to water their gardens.

"Parts of the country are already experiencing hydrogeological drought - a situation when water doesn't enter the deep layers of the soil and is not filtered in springs," says Wody polskie's Kiergiel.

Experts insist that capturing more water is crucial.

Lacking sufficient reservoirs, Poland retains only 6.5 percent of the water that passes through its territory, while Spain manages to keep nearly half.

To ward off a crisis, the government plans to spend 14 billion zlotys (3.28 billion euros $3.6 billion) to build around 30 holding tanks. These should double Poland's water retention capacity by 2027.

Farmers will be able to build small tanks up to 1,000 cubic metres without special permits.

"We're only just discovering that Poland has an issue with water... We thought it was a sub-Saharan Africa problem, not a European one," says Leszek Pazderski, an environmental expert with Greenpeace Poland.

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