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Going with the Flow
August 26, 2010   
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Predicting floods and preventing flood damage are among the aims of a research project launched in January by a group of institutions in the southern Silesia region.

The project is being coordinated by the University of Silesia in Katowice, and other members of the research consortium include the Cracow University of Technology, the Institute for Ecology of Industrial Areas in Katowice, and the Polish Academy of Sciences’ Institute of Environmental Engineering in Zabrze. Their strategic business partner is water supply company Górno¶l±skie Przedsiębiorstwo Wodoci±gów.

The project focuses on the Goczałkowicki Reservoir, a manmade lake built on the Vistula River in 1955. The lake supplies water to Katowice and other cities in Silesia province.

As part of the project, over the next four years, an interdisciplinary team of experts will monitor and analyze the hydrological, hydro-geological, chemical and physical properties of the reservoir as well as the surrounding plant and animal life. The analyzed data will be collected into an integrated database. Researchers will use this data to build a numerical model of the reservoir, which will enable them to determine its condition and functionality as well as run simulations and predict changes.

In practice, the model will enable scientists to predict changes in the level and quality of the water, experts say.

Deforestation, regulation, retention

Researchers taking part in the project want to solve the problem of the reduced functionality of Poland’s manmade lakes due to aging and excessive exploitation of surrounding areas. A further aim is to better predict the risks of flooding, because even though the main cause is usually intensive rainfall, many other factors such as deforestation—which causes rain water to reach rivers faster—regulation of rivers, and the creation of retention reservoirs, also contribute to the effect.

Based on depth measurements of the Goczałkowicki Reservoir, scientists will model its bed, which will enable them to have an accurate idea of its capacity to contain water, especially in the event of sudden surges. The studies of deforestation, on the other hand, will enable them to predict the rate of water flow to rivers after rainfall and the associated risks. The project will last until March 2014 and the procedures will then be transferred to other reservoirs around Poland as well as other European countries with a similar climate and geology.

Under its Water Framework Directive, the European Union aims to intensify efforts to enable better management of water resources by 2015. This especially applies to reservoirs subject to strong human pressure.

The project meets the requirements of international treaties on the conservation and management of water resources, such as the Bern Convention on the Conservation of European Wildlife and Natural Habitats of 1979, the Bonn Convention on Migratory Species of that same year, and the EU Habitat Directive of 1992.

The project is expected to help facilitate decision making on the management and maintenance of water reservoirs, keeping in mind both environmental protection requirements and the need to supply high quality water.

The researchers want to upgrade the Goczałkowicki Reservoir as a source of drinkable water for the Silesia region, in addition to contributing to flood prevention, maintaining the reservoir’s role in times of drought and preserving its natural values and fishing potential. Also examined will be possible recreational uses of the reservoir.

New laboratory equipment will be bought as part of the project and many new jobs will be created for students and doctoral candidates.

The project is partially financed by the European Regional Development Fund under the EU’s Innovative Economy Operational Program.

Ewa Dereń
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