Water resources and management

Bartłomiej Wyżga, Joanna Zawiejska, Gábor Borics, Gabriella Bodnár, Stanisław Małek

Current situation

In terms of formation of water-environmental information and monitoring system, a European network of small experimental and representative basins exists and the results of research in such basins are periodically presented at international conferences. However, no exchange of information about water-related issues at the scale of larger catchments exists and at present, monitoring systems operate only in individual countries or in some transboundary catchments but not at “Carpathian scale”.

Attempts to quantify future hydrological changes in Carpathian river catchments have been undertaken within the scope of some international projects, at the regional (CARPIVIA – Carpathian integrated assessment of vulnerability to climate change and ecosystem-based adaptation measures) or local scale (FLORIST – Flood risk at the northern foothills of the Tatra Mountains – Kundzewicz et al., 2014).

To date, plans of publishing a comprehensive resource material on the Carpathian hydrology (‘Hydrological Atlas of the Carpathian Mountains’) have not been carried out, although hydrological maps for particular ranges exist (e.g. Tatra Mountains).

Research on various aspects of water resources and management is carried out in particular countries, but it is mostly confined to individual disciplines (hydrology, geomorphology, hydrobiology, civil engineering etc.) with rather infrequent instances of interdisciplinary projects, especially at larger spatial scales.

Efforts towards water conservation and developing water resources management strategies in transboundary river basins are undertaken mainly as large-scale projects involving several countries and resources (e.g. the Danube River Basin).

Efforts allowing future attainment of good ecological state of water bodies (groundwater bodies, rivers, lakes) have been stimulated by the European legal system, however, to date they mostly consist in developing local or adapting foreign methodologies to assess the current state of the watercourses. The actual restoration measures, based on research, are still scarce. This is largely due to the fact that scientific recognition of the relationships between ecological state of watercourses and their hydromorphology, water quality and land use in the catchments are still inadequate and based on very recent work. Fulfillment of the environmental objectives of the Water Framework Directive seems impossible to attain by 2015 in the Carpathian EU-member states.

Further steps in the period 2015-2020

Investigations of spring water are necessary to recognize the impacts of pollution and various types of management on the quality of groundwater in mountain areas (Astel et al., 2009). Recognition of the impact of past and recent human modifications to rivers on their morphological complexity and river biota is one of crucial issues in improving water management in the region. The significance of water quality to the ecological state of rivers and lakes is already well recognized, but the effects of hydromorphological modifications also appear to exert an important impact on the state of river ecosystems (Wyżga and Zawiejska, 2012). The significance of these effects in the context of various types of impacts and various types of watercourses still needs to be demonstrated and knowledge on their significance should be transferred to river managers.

Rapid water runoff and low retention potential are well recognized features of mountain catchments, leading to water scarcity and droughts on one hand and sudden floods on the other hand. It is thus important to determine how these hydrological extremes were exacerbated by human activities (changes to river morphology, inappropriate management of floodplain areas) and how they can be affected by future climate changes in particular parts of the Carpathians.

Site-specific engineering solutions to local problems were for long the dominating approach in river management, but this approach has led to increasingly widespread geomorphic disequilibrium of rivers and the loss of longitudinal connectivity of river ecosystems. Research on basin-scale river processes and integrated river basin management is thus necessary to improve the ecological state of rivers as well as water quality and availability.

Considerable ecological degradation and the loss of potential for floodwater storage on the valley floors, resulting from human impacts on many mountain rivers, requires ecological assessment methods with which impact of hydromorphological alterations can be evaluated, and development and implementation of cost-effective methods of river restoration focused on improvement of both the ecological state of rivers and flood risk management. Achievement of this goal requires not only gaining knowledge about cost-effective and environment-friendly approach to river/water resources management by water managers but also disseminating knowledge about such solutions among local and national societies.

References:

Astel A., Małek S., Krakowian K., 2009. Multivariate exploration and classification applied to the chemical composition of spring waters in sanctuary forest areas. International Journal of Environmental Analytical Chemistry 89: 597–620.

Kundzewicz Z.W., Stoffel M., Kaczka R.J., Wyżga B., Niedźwiedź T., Pińskwar I., Ruiz-Villanueva V., Łupikasza E., Czajka B., Ballesteros-Canovas J.A., Małarzewski Ł., Choryński A., Janecka K., Mikuś P. 2014. Floods at the northern foothills of the Tatra Mountains – A Polish-Swiss research project. Acta Geophysica 62 : 620–641.

Wyżga B., Zawiejska J., 2012. Hydromorphological quality as a key element of the ecological status of Polish Carpathian rivers. Georeview, 21: 56–67.

http://www.carpivia.eu

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