In recent years local Mayors and Provincial Governors took measures such as hosepipe bans and bans on taking water from underground sources or streams in their respective areas. The hydrologist Professor Patrick Willems told VRT News that previously decisions were taken based on very little information and it wasn’t always clear to provincial governors when they should act.
Professor Willems and other experts believe that the situation regarding water shortages and droughts won’t improve and that climate change will result in the issues becoming more acute. “At the same time, we realise that we are vulnerable in Flanders as we have very little water available per head of population. This means that we will always have issues during periods of extreme drought.
The Flemish Government’s plan aims to address this by better preparing our region for water shortages. So-called “water buffers” will be created as will more areas of natural wetlands. The action plan is the result of work carried out by a consortium of scientists, public authorities and company. Around 130 different interested parties were consulted.
The aim is to provide clarity to Provincial Governors and local authorities. When could a period of water shortages be looming? Which possible measures should be taken and what are the ecological and socio-economic costs and advantages of any measures taken?
Measures put securing supply of drinking water first
The possible measures that can be taken include a ban on watering gardens, a ban on irrigating agricultural land and even a ban on boating. The plan clearly stipulates that no matter what drinking water supplies should be maintained at all times. Furthermore, “irreparable damage to nature” must also be avoided at all costs.
The Environment Minister says that the plan offers guidelines to mayors and governors. It will be them and not the Flemish Government in Brussels that will decide which measures need to be taken and when. Although the plan is ready to be implemented this summer, Ms Demir hopes that this won’t be necessary.