Improving Drought Preparedness

Technological advances in agriculture have significantly increased production levels, and the effects of drought episodes should not directly threaten the country's food security under a stable climate condition. However, in the last 20 years, a disturbing trend toward increased sensitivity of food production to the occurrence of drought has been identified. The situation in the forested areas was found to be even more dramatic because of the risk of forest fires, which together with higher incidence of vegetation stress (frequently caused by drought) should lead to changes in traditional management principles. Despite the fact that drought events are not as likely as other events to draw the attention of the media and have been left out of public debates for a long time, citizens and municipalities in general are aware of the risks and the need for adaptation measures to be implemented. This shows that the problem of drought and its effects might have (or might be perceived to have) a greater impact on society than the media coverage would suggest, which may lead to increased media coverage.

The scientific evidence presented above points out the fact that Czech society has had and will continue to have to deal with episodes of droughts in all parts of the country. Analysis of historical data shows evidence of exceptional drought episodes with the capability to seriously harm the agrarian economy. Despite technological advancements, agriculture continues to be dependent on rainfall as its source for water. Major droughts in more recent years (i.e., 2000, 2003, 2007, 2011-2012, and 2014-2015) were catalysts for changes in the attitudes of policymakers. The adoption of a comprehensive drought policy is urgently needed since the frequency and intensity of drought episodes is the highest in regions with low availability of groundwater resources (Figure 22.6). Previously, this common problem was alleviated by storing water in the higher parts of the river catchments in reservoirs constructed during the twentieth century.

Although drinking water and energy requirements will still be met in most situations in the next 20-30 years, manageable water resources for irrigation are not sufficient to cover expected increases in water demand. Agricultural water consumption is much lower than in neighboring countries because irrigation systems are underused (and underdeveloped). There are several reasons for this, the main one being generally favorable climatic conditions with most precipitation occurring during summer months and water from winter months accumulating in the soil. As the changing climate erodes reliability of soil water and precipitation as sufficient sources of water for crops (especially those of higher value like hops, grapes, or vegetables), the demand for irrigated agriculture will increase. However, if present irrigation systems (covering less than 4 percent of arable land) were to run at full capacity, the water amount required to cover the crop needs would surpass the resources in some catchments, particularly during the dry years. Because of changes in climatic conditions during the period from 2021 to 2040, we expect that an increase in water use of up to 33 percent (compared with the 1981-2010 baseline period) will be necessary to maintain the same cropping systems. Future climate can allow profitable

FIGURE 22.6

(a) Areas considered to be most at risk from the occurrence of drought based on the occurrence of days with drought stress in the first (April-June) and second (July-September) half of the summer, half-year and proportion of soils with extremely low soil water-holding capacity. Z-scores of all three parameters were averaged per cadastral unit. (b) Ratio between annual runoff and precipitation expressing proportion of rainfall that on average ends in the streams and rivers. Third-order catchments are represented (larger catchments are divided in smaller parts). Both maps represent the 1981-2014 period.

irrigated agriculture but will require an extension or increase of irrigated areas. Although a significant increase of the amount of irrigated land is theoretically possible, it would require large infrastructure investments, and consensus on this investment has not been achieved by policymakers and the general public.

Figure 22.7 points to an even more pressing issue that is likely to arise in the near future. Ongoing climate change will likely cause a significant decrease of overall water resources in the eight principal catchments of the Czech Republic in the next 20 years. Four out of five simulation runs based on a representative set of global circulation models signal a major drop in the amount of potentially available water (i.e., sum of annual discharge after the current water withdrawals have been subtracted). In the case of a 10-year drought, all iterations lead to a significantly reduced amount of available water compared to 1981-2010. This is especially true for the southeast and northwest parts of the country, where the occurrence of droughts is likely to increase in the next 20 years (Figure 22.5).

Measures focusing on reducing the vulnerability of the territory to drought must be considered across the country, but consideration must also be given to other hydrometeorological risks. The ongoing global climate change in central Europe will lead not only to the already mentioned increase in the frequency and severity of droughts but also to the increased frequency of other hydrometeorological extremes such as floods and flash floods, or heat waves (Stocker et al. 2013). Therefore, it is necessary to consider adaptation and mitigation measures that deal with the increasing risk of droughts and floods. Minimizing vulnerability to these hazards requires that adaptation and mitigation measures for each hazard be evaluated together, as these measures may not be mutually appropriate.

To deal with the negative climatic trends and growing exposure of the area to major drought events, it is important to strengthen the institutional capacity of the governing bodies (especially the regional and central government authorities) and prepare specific strategies for dealing with drought proactively as well as responding more effectively during drought. During a drought episode, little can be done except to respond to the crisis or emergency to limit damages. Therefore, it is necessary to work proactively and systematically with individual businesses, communities, and drought-affected sectors to increase their resilience to drought episodes. Current policies that have been implemented or proposed in the legislative process include: [1]

FIGURE 22.7

Potentially available water resources represented as discharge through the closing profile of the given catchment area per year after subtracting existing water uses. Top three maps represent baseline conditions (1981-2015) for "normal" year, and 5- and 10-year drought. The series of 15 maps represent estimates for the 2021-2040 period for five representative global circulation models.

  • • A focus on the selection of resilient tree species and forest types for drought and other known climate risks
  • • The early detection of drought onset, with the will to take appropriate and timely actions, and an emphasis on minimizing economic, social, and environmental losses, including building awareness and understanding of those sectors most affected

Delayed response to drought at all levels of management may result in the multiplication of potential damage. Some other policies currently under discussion include:

  • • Increasing manageable water resources (new dams, ponds, or underground water reservoirs) of various sizes
  • • Raising awareness among the population to promote and support individual responsibility for improving drought resilience (e.g., the economic use of water resources and the use of various individual water storage systems)
  • • Systematic preparation for the economic consequences of drought episodes during "good" years (e.g., creation of a fund to cover uninsurable risks for farmers, which would top-up premium payments by farmers from the public resources, i.e., the state would match the premium payments by a private company, and provide support during drought only to those actively participating in the funding scheme, and discontinuation of ad hoc interventions during droughts)
  • • Preparation of specific, direct, and useful drought plans with clearly defined competences and regular updating

  • [1] Systematic support to improve retention capacity of the soil andlandscape as a whole • Optimizing the crop structure and crop/cultivar diversification,including appropriate utilization of soil tillage and other agricultural technology
 
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