27 (122) 2016
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Events coverage

Managing water – future challenges for Poland

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Climate researchers forecast that Poland will have shorter winters, with less snow; longer vegetative periods; drier, hotter summers punctuated with intense rainstorms.

This will create new challenges for the Polish state, at national, regional and local levels. Droughts will hit agriculture, as longer growing seasons mean plants take more water from the soil. When rain does fall, it will tend to come in downpours that will cause flooding, causing damage to towns and farmland alike.

The challenges mean that Poland has to invest now in retention ponds to store rain from summer storms, flood defences for areas at risk from swollen rivers, and urban planning solutions for a changing climate.

At a half-day conference held at the British Embassy on 1 December 2016, the BPCC looked at integrated water-resource management. The audience consisted of representatives of local authorities from across Poland, ministries, agencies and NGOs from the environmental sector.

Sarah Tiffin opened the conference as chargé d'affaires of the British Embassy, after which Dr Aneta Afelt, leader of Mott MacDonald’s climate change section, explained how much Poland’s climate will change to the end of this century, and the investments that will be needed to mitigate the effects. Poland, which already faces localised water shortages, will experience more droughts, as less snow cover will mean that surface water will evaporate faster, she said. There will be more demand for water, so capturing rainwater from summer deluges that would otherwise run off will be crucial. She mentioned the concept of ‘Collect – Store – Utilise – Drain’ – ensuring that water is not wasted.

Mateusz Sztobryn, head of the legal section at the Water Resource Department at the Ministry of the Environment, explained the institutional framework within which Poland’s water resources are administered. He presented the new system of payment for water, and the organisational changes which will result in the creation of a new body, Wody Polskie, which will take over many of the responsibilities for water from local authorities in the New Year.

Marcin Grądzki, senior specialist from the Department for Sustainable Development and International Cooperation at the Ministry of the Environment, set out the government’s strategy for adapting to climate change in Poland. He showed examples of recent extreme weather events as they affected various parts of the country, saying that these are become more commonplace. “For every €1 invested in adaptation, the taxpayer saves €4 to €7 in repairing damage caused by such meteorological phenomena,” said Mr Grądzki.

In the Q&A session with the speakers, several representatives of local authorities raised concerns that there is not enough time to train staff who will be relocated from local or regional offices to Wody Polskie; though the deadline for the change is 1 January 2017, parliament has not yet voted through the necessary legislation.

After a coffee break, there was a panel discussion moderated by Dr Afelt looking at how Poland is to make the jump between the current state and the challenges of the future. She was joined by Marta Mikiewicz, head of the Environment Protection Department of Warsaw’s water authority MPWiK, Kamil Wyszkowski, director-general of UN Global Compact, and Bartłomiej Morzycki, government relations manager at 3M, who offered a private-sector view of the problems of water usage, and how 3M (which has nine production facilities across Poland) is dealing with it.

Mr Wyszkowski broadened the scope of the debate by talking about the Baltic, which is becoming more of a lake or inland sea, as the currents bringing water from the North Sea lose their strength. The result, he says, is that phosphate run-offs from agriculture in countries bordering the Baltic have left 23% of its surface bereft of life other than algae blooms. It is also overfished – the lack of cod in particular has negatively impacted the food chain in the sea, he said.

The panel was followed by presentations from Joanna Zawadzka, a lecturer at Cranfield University; Piotr Piórkowski, head of the water-usage planning department at the National Water Management Board, and Monika Kłosowicz, consultant at Mott MacDonald Polska, who talked about the amendments to the national water usage plans.

There was time for networking over lunch; the event proved a useful forum for exchange of views between public and private sectors and for a look at some best practice from the UK. The event, which followed up from an earlier conference held in June, helped to cement good working relationships between experts from both sectors and reinforce commitment to tackling the challenges that Poland will face as a result of climate change.

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