Not enough water in Poland: Agricultural Minister

Experts warn that without efforts to increase water retention “Polish agriculture will truly experience a tragedy.”

“For many years, there hasn’t been a safe situation when it comes to water supply. Indeed, there is a shortage of water, the level of groundwater is decreasing. However, the rains that fell this year interrupted the progress of the drought. I tremble, hoping that the current high temperatures won’t last another two or three weeks, because then the drought may become serious” said Agricultural Minister Jan Ardanowski.

Poland is dealing with two problems. One is an agricultural drought, affecting parts of the country, a temporary, weeks long issue, caused by low rainfall and high temperature. The second is a hydrological drought, which means the lowering of groundwater reserves. This is a long term, multi-year problem that is getting progressively worse.

According to the Institute of Soil Science and Plant Cultivation, an agricultural drought is present in northern and central Poland, in 9 out of 16 Polish provinces.

The areas worst affected by the drought are expected to yield at least 20% less crops. Among the hardest hit are winter cereal (rye, wheat, barley and triticale planted in autumn and collected in spring) and strawberries.

Poland is the world’s largest producer of triticale, producing 5,300,000 tonnes of it, out of global production of 15,500,000 tonnes.

The situation is so serious that even fruit trees are affected. The drought has caused a drastic rise in the price of vegetables, some as much as 600%.

“We have a great hydrological drought, our groundwater is escaping. We lack the skills to retain it. [...] We urgently need a program of increasing water reserves on the small scale, in rural areas. We need to rebuild small lakes, wetlands, marshes, to retain some trees in fielded areas, because these are the reservoirs. Without this, Polish agriculture truly will experience a tragedy,” warns Professor Zbigniew Karaczun from Warsaw University of Life Sciences.

“Starting in August we’re introducing a new irrigation program for agriculture, so far we have PLN 400 mln (EUR 93 mln) earmarked for it, it will be PLN 1 bn (EUR 230 mln) in total,” Minister Ardanowski described government efforts to tackle the problem. He also explained that the counties worst affected will receive help first.

The Ministry of Marine Economy and Inland Navigation is also preparing a program to increase water retention, hoping for an increase from 6.5 percent to 15 percent. The program is aimed not only at retention, but also at minimising the effects of floods. The program will cost PLN 12 bn (EUR 2.1 bn) and is expected to be finished in 2027.