Conflicting objectives of the Jeziorsko Reservoir

By Małgorzata Szwed and Zbigniew W. Kundzewicz

malgorzata_szwedThe Jeziorsko Reservoir on the River Warta is the second largest storage reservoir in Poland in terms of its area, and fourth largest in terms of capacity. Flood protection was the principal reason for constructing this reservoir, since the Konin-Pyzdry valley of the Warta River (approx. 25 thousand ha) had been frequently inundated by 150-200 million m3 of water, damaging agriculture and threatening riparian cities.

In addition to flood risk reduction, further functions were envisaged when constructing the Jeziorsko Reservoir:

  • to increase flows of the River Warta during low flow periods;  
  • to supply water for cold storage systems of the Pątnów-Adamów-Konin power station complex;
  • to provide recreational value by creating favourable conditions for the Łódź region;
  • to provide economic benefit via fisheries management on the reservoir.

An environmental task was added later: to preserve new habitat conditions for water birds.

The present functions of the reservoir are:

  • reduction of flood risk in the valley of the Warta River of 250 km length;
  • recreation; and
  • protection of natural legacy (nature reserve – bird sanctuary, areas of Nature 2000).

Intense rainfall generates problems and damages in the Warta River Basin almost every year. Due to frequent intense rainfall, river water levels also rise. In 2010, flood peaks on the River Warta in Poznań (666 cm) was higher than during the record flood in 1997 (550 cm). In the Golina municipality, 100 residents of the polder and belongings from 86 households were evacuated. In 2010, flooding polders in Golina and Zagórów municipalities prevented substantial flood damage in riparian towns located downstream on the Warta.

zbigniew_kundzewiczThe operation of the Jeziorsko Reservoir is a matter of frequent public debate. The Chairman of the Wielkopolska Agricultural Chamber addressed the Prime Minister of Poland on behalf of farmers and residents of municipalities around Warta, requesting change of the operating instruction for the reservoir in order to reduce flooding along the Warta. Attempts to reach agreement with services responsible for managing the reservoir were ineffective and even the latest attempts in 2013, a debate of the Parliament of Wielkopolska Province and its Committee of Farming and Rural Development, as well as a  special conference organized by the Wielkopolska Agricultural Chamber did not bring satisfactory results. The main reason for these unfruitful attempts to reach agreement lie in the conflicts of interests. The Jeziorsko Reservoir affects two provinces: Łódź and Wielkopolska (Poznań) whose priorities differ. Using Jeziorsko as a recreation target became a superior function of the reservoir for the Łódź Province. Hence, increasing the flood reserve is in conflict with the interest of owners and users of recreational facilities, who need high water levels. The flood reserve capacity of the reservoir remains small and the river valley is often inundated. Farmers incur damages without the possibility of compensation, since cultivations within the Warta River Valley are, practically, not insurable.

Local activists, stakeholders and farmers demand a change of the reservoir operating rules. Councillors and residents blame the reservoir management for recurrent inundations, since the recreational use dominates over flood protection.

The Regional Board of the Water Management in Poznań, responsible for the management of the Jeziorsko Reservoir, explains that the reservoir’s task is only flattening of a flood wave. Nevertheless, it is suggested to increase the reservoir flood reserve from 40 to 60 million m3. The director of the Regional Board in Poznań rightly stated that relocation of farmers from flood risk areas would solve the problem. However, this would not be easy, since Polish farmers do not want to leave “patrimonies”. Nevertheless, Governor of the Wielkopolska Province appeals to municipal officers to not issue building permits in unsafe areas.

Regional civil officers, including marshals of provinces Wielkopolska (Poznań) and Łódź, are aware of the conflict of interest around the reservoir management, but as for now, the conflict is not solved.

The public dispute over the operation of the Jeziorsko Reservoir, related to flood protection, is of relevance to the STAR-FLOOD project, hence it is of potential interest to the visitors of this portal. It is an interesting example of quite a typical development of the situation in Poland. We hope that in the framework of STAR-FLOOD project we will be able to propose useful insight and to enter the public debate.

Location of the Jeziorsko Reservoir

Location of the Jeziorsko Reservoir

Featured image on the front page: The Jeziorsko Dam and Reservoir. By Rzuwig (Own work) [CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons