A lake in western Poland is drying out at an alarming rate. Various theories have been proposed, but experts are struggling to explain the rapid changes.
The shrinkage of Lake Głębokie – which, ironically, means “deep” in English – has been ongoing for a number of years. Having further dried out this summer, the lake’s name is more of a misnomer than ever. Next to a pier built just a few years ago, the water depth has decreased to just 10 cm.
Jezioro Głębokie staje się… płytkie. Nikt nie wie, dlaczego. https://t.co/K4CS7XeyW9
— PolsatNews.pl (@PolsatNewsPL) September 2, 2020
The lake, near the town of Międzyrzecz in western Poland, boasts clean water, pristine beaches, and ample tourist facilities, making it popular among holidaymakers and anglers.
Marek Sancewicz from the Międzyrzecz Sports and Recreation Centre told Polsat that the water loss was “progressive and alarming”, while a local fisherman said that the lake had become considerably shallower over the last three years.
This process has been taking place over an even longer period. In 2010, local newspaper Kurier Międzyrzecki reported that a resident had recorded a decrease of 123 cm over the previous decade.
However, “it is not entirely clear why the water is disappearing”, reports Polsat News.
According to local news portal Międzyrzecz Nasze Miasto, one cause of water depletion is a local well, which is regularly used by holidaymakers in the summer months. While water levels usually increase quickly after the busy summer season, there is little evidence of that so far this year.
The water table now “never returns to its previous level”, local residents told Gazeta Wyborcza. The newspaper reports that, aside from the impact of tourists, recent drought conditions in Poland are also likely to have contributed to the change.
Poland has some of the poorest water resources in Europe and, according to the newspaper, resources in the Odra basin, where Lake Głębokie is located, are at a lower level than the national average.
“Since 2015, we have been observing a really deepening drought,” Grzegorz Walijewski from the Institute of Meteorology and Water Management, told Polsat. “On both rivers and lakes, the water level is constantly falling.”
Local authorities in Międzyrzecz want to take steps to address the situation, but lack funds to do so, writes Polsat. They are therefore seeking government subsidies towards a system of weirs, which could replenish the lake in times of drought.
The town’s mayor, Remigiusz Lorenz, told Polsat that, whilst this was not technically “a task for the municipality”, they are seeking to take action in order to support tourism in the local area as well as for “the good of residents”.
Another proposal, made a decade ago by scientists from Wrocław, was to replenish the lake with water from wells. They calculated that this could increase the water level by 80 cm in three and a half years, reports Gazeta Wyborcza.
Poland has faced regular drought conditions in recent times. Last year, the country’s hottest on record, the Vistula River reached its lowest-ever water level in Warsaw, dropping to 33 cm.
Although this has partly been caused by climate change, experts have also blamed water mismanagement for worsening conditions. Even heavy rainfall has only partially saturated the soil.
There have also been recent warnings of a late summer drought. In mid-August, the state meteorological and water management service, IMGW-PIB, reported that the final weeks of summer would see Poland’s worst drought of recent years.
In response to the crisis, the government has moved to introduce a special “anti-drought” act that would devote over 150 million zloty to improving water retention and storage.
Lake Głębokie is not the only Polish lake which has suffered water loss in recent years. Marinas at the Sulejowski reservoir, an artificial lake in Łódź Province, had to be closed last year, after drought conditions caused boats to run aground.
Meanwhile, in May, the small Lake Święte in eastern Poland was also reported to be drying out as a result of drought, reported Dziennik Wschodni.
Main image credit: Facebook/Jezioro Głębokie