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Rainwater shortage already at 1976 levels

The rainwater shortage in Flanders today already exceeds the shortages witnessed in the extremely dry summers of 1976, 2018 and 2020.

Prof Patrick Willems, an expert in Hydrology and hydraulic engineering, explains today’s extremely dry conditions combined with high temperatures will lead to the evaporation of a lot of water: “We are already experiencing a rainwater shortage in Flanders”.

The professor can’t say for sure whether we are heading for an exceptionally dry summer but the large rainwater shortage is a crucial indicator.

In 2018 when we experienced a particularly dry summer the rainwater shortage at this point in the year was lower than today.  Last year we experienced a particularly wet summer with excess rainwater levels.

VRT weather presenter Frank Deboosere notes spring is always the driest period of the year but March 2022 was the driest March since records began in 1833.  If the trend persists May 2022 too is on a similar course.

The rain forecast for the end of the working week is not set to reverse matters.  Prof Willems believes the rain will immediately evaporate because of the heat: “We need several days of rain to reduce the shortage.

The expert identifies how vulnerable Flanders is to a shortage: 16% of ground surfaces are covered in concrete and the like and that means rainwater immediately ends up in the sewers.  Our population density, farming and industry mean we consume a lot of water.

“The rainwater shortage stands at 100mm and is heading for 150mm” warns Willems.  “If we hit 200mm a code amber will be declared and measures to save water will be introduced including a hose ban and a ban on filling your pool”.

Water companies are relaxed about the situation.  After the wet winter ground water levels where our tap water is sourced are sufficiently replenished. This being said at the start of May 7 out of 10 Flemish measuring points reported low to very low ground water levels and this is impacting on nature and farming.

The Flemish government is spending 20 million euros on the Blue Deal, an action plan to protect Flanders against drought and water shortages.

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