Prague prepares for drought

Despite floods in the past, lack of rainfall is threatening the city

Prague is preparing to deal with a lack of rainfall. While there have been floods in 2002 and 2013, recently the rainfall has been below the long-term average. Two years ago in Prague and Central Bohemia the rainfall was 459 mm, about 25 percent below average. According to the Czech Hydrometeorological Institute (ČHMÚ), 2015 was the driest year in the past quarter century. As a result the groundwater levels are low.

Drought has particularly affected forests in the city. Petra Fišerová, spokeswoman for city forestry firm Lesy hl. m. Prahy, told daily Pražský deník that the trees become vulnerable due to lack of water and cannot produce enough resin to fend off problems such as bark beetle. Instead, the mature trees die off when faced with a threat. Fungal diseases also spread, especially among evergreen trees.

The city is developing a plan to deal with global warming and climate change, and should reveal details in June. The relevant information is now in the hands of experts. Two key issues are increasing the amount of greenspace and managing rainwater. Part of the strategy should include slowing down runoff and creating retention tanks for water.

The city has already started creating new ponds in public spaces. The ponds in Stromovka park have been rebuilt and a new one was added where there had been one previously that had been filled in. Ponds were also built in Hloubětín and the Kunratice forest. More ponds are planned for Modřany and the Bohnice valley.

Ondřej Růžička, the Prague 4 council member responsible for the environment, told daily Pražský deník that building retention ponds allows the district to react to drought and better manage water resources. Prague 4 will be building retention ponds so it can retain water and use it for urban watering in dry periods. Two retention ponds are planned at primary schools and two at kindergartens. The first is already being built at a school in Lhotka in Prague 4.

At the same time, the city is also increasing its flood defenses and has launched a new application that monitors water levels in the Rokytka and Botič streams and lets people see in real time what the situation is so they can respond. These two streams both caused damage when they overflowed in 2002 and 2013.

Increasing the forest area near the streams is also intended to prevent runoff that helps cause the streams to overflow. The city has also created a series of fixed and mobile barriers as well as safety valves to prevent or slow potential flooding.

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