The Role of Water in the Landscape

We constantly hear about the need to conserve water due to its dwindling resources. Unfortunately, most of Poland is characterized by a water deficit. It is estimated that Poland’s surface water resources are small, amounting to about 62 km³. Additionally, they are characterized by seasonal variability, with resources possibly decreasing to 40 km³ in a very dry year and reaching up to 90 km³ in a very wet year. The amount of renewable freshwater resources per person in our country is about 1,600 m³ of water per year – this indicator is three times lower than the European average and places us 24th in the European Union. It should be emphasized that the Wielkopolska Lakeland is at the center of the country’s water deficit, and we are increasingly observing various effects of water shortage in our landscape, such as drastic decreases in lake and river levels, or the drying up of small reservoirs and the disappearance of wetlands. The observed excessive drying of the soil and prolonged drought periods have catastrophic natural and economic consequences, especially for agriculture. Along with the shrinking water resources, there is a trend of deteriorating water usability quality. Unfortunately, almost every form of water use, whether recreational, industrial, agricultural, or consumer, changes its quality. Our rivers and lakes often have low transparency, are perceived as dirty by users, and dangerous algae blooms, such as toxic cyanobacteria, are increasingly common – these are characteristics of polluted waters.

How to Retain Water and Restore Biological Life to Lakes and Rivers?

Water retention in the landscape should be seen as a kind of „network system” – both interconnected structural elements that accumulate water and provide access to water and natural resources while influencing its integrity and continuity. In simplification, it somewhat resembles the functioning of a computer or internet network.


Well-functioning green areas, wetlands, rivers, lakes, and water reservoirs are crucial components of such a network. Such a system can be recreated and protected, contributing to increased humidity and lowering average temperatures. Even in urban areas, a properly designed network of reservoirs, watercourses, and urban wetlands means that heatwaves are not as burdensome for residents. It is also a friendly environment for the development of many plant and animal species. On the other hand, a well-functioning „network” system allows the accumulation of excess water during heavy rainfall, limiting floods and waterlogging. Such a system can also provide water self-purification and improve its quality. In practical actions to increase resilience to climate change, it is essential to link retention-enhancing actions with nature conservation, especially in terms of increasing biodiversity. Designing retention should also seek solutions for protecting water’s edge zones, creating specific buffer zones to limit pollution runoff and restore aquatic ecological corridors. Only the protection of water resources on a landscape or watershed macro scale provides proper results necessary to mitigate climate change.

Prof. UAM Maciej Gąbka, PhD, Department of Hydrobiology, Faculty of Biology, Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań

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