The water we drinkExpert: Czech Republic beginning to run out of water

Published 27 January 2011

The Czech Republic is running low on its underground water supplies, with villages in the north and the south experiencing shortages; nearly 50 percent of Czech residents depend on underground water sources; experts believe that increasingly extreme weather patterns caused by climate change are to blame; long dry months followed by severe storms are causing massive floods and leave the ground less able to absorb water; extreme estimates predict that by 2050, the Czech Republic would not have enough water for its population’s basic needs

Central Europe faces groundwater shortages // Source:

Scientists warn that the Czech Republic is beginning to run out water and could face even more shortages.

Extreme estimates predict that by 2050, the Czech Republic would not have enough water for its population’s basic needs.

According to Inter Press Service, the country has become increasingly arid with land and critical underground water supplies drying up.

Professor Michael Marek, the head of the EU funded CzechGlobe climate change research project, says that climate change has exacerbated extreme weather events and led to a decrease in the land’s ability to replenish its water supplies.

Marek is particularly concerned about the long dry spells because of its relationship to water supplies.

He says, “The most important change is in the increasing drying out of the landscape as drier periods get longer and are followed by bursts of intense rainfall which the dry soil cannot absorb. This has a very significant effect on underground water supplies.”

Central Europe has been experiencing increasingly long dry summers followed by severe flooding and extreme storms in the winter.

Due to the long period of hot weather, the ground has dried out making it less able to absorb water thereby increasing the likelihood of flooding.

Countries across central Europe including Poland, the Czech Republic, Slovakia, Hungary, Austria, and Germany have been hit by extreme floods in the past several years.

Last year in Poland, a series of flash floods broke through dykes and submerged homes in water sixteen to twenty feet deep in the worst flooding the country had seen in decades.

One flood alone killed an estimated twenty people, caused over two billion euros in damage, and displaced more than 2,000 residents.

Germany also saw major flooding last year and experienced its worst flooding since 1997. Swollen rivers broke their dykes and flooded villages in water as high as twenty-three feet.

Meanwhile summer temperature records have continued to rise hitting unprecedented rates.

In 2003, and again in 2010, Europe experienced record temperatures with countries regularly seeing temperatures above 100 degrees Fahrenheit. These heat waves were accompanied by drought and resulted in sharp declines in agricultural yields.

According to scientists, these extreme weather patterns have caused a depletion of underground water sources for some villages in the Czech Republic.

Areas in the north and south of the country are experiencing declining underground water levels according to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute, which monitors underground water sources.

This is particularly worrisome for the country, as roughly 50 percent of Czechs rely on water from underground sources.

Replenishing underground supplies depend on several factors like local water flows and geological conditions, but rainfall plays a major role.

Marek says, “[rain] is one factor affecting underground supply of water but it is terribly important.”

Anna Hrabankova, a hydrologist at the T. G. Masaryk Water Research Institute in Prague, says that as a result of climate change, “Rainfall is spread differently throughout the year now. The rhythms of rainfall here have changed.”

A variety of measures have been proposed to ensure that water supplies can be replenishedincluding reversing river courses, which have been artificially straightened leaving them less able to retain water, and better landscape planning to reduce water runoff.