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Hydrologist says that the situation will be worse than in 1976 if it remains dry until September

The Leuven University (KUL) Hydrology professor Patrick Willems has told VRT News that as things stand the drought that we are experiencing this summer is nearly as severe as that experienced in 1976. However, if the weather remains dry for the rest of the month, this summer’s drought will go down in history as being more severe than in that record-breaking summer 46 years ago. Professor Willems says that we need to better prepare for droughts by taking measures to retain more water during periods of the year when there is precipitation.

To say this summer has been warm and dry is something of an understatement. Temperatures have topped 30°C on numerous occasions and most of us haven’t seen any significant rainfall for many weeks.

Speaking in an interview with VRT News’ weekday current affairs programme ‘Terzake’ Professor Willem said "We are experiencing a drought that is close to in severity to that experienced in 1976. If we look at the forecasts it is heading the same way as 1976 and it could possibly be more exteme. If it remains bone dry until September it could be quite a bit more extreme”.

The fact that we are now more often confronted with periods of drought is due to climate change.

"In any case this will happen more frequently in the future and will possibly be even more extreme than now. We are going to have to protect ourselves against this kind of phenomenon”, Professor Willems said.

But how can we do this? "This means retaining more water when it rains”. Professor Willems says that there are several ways in which this could be done. First of all by replacing concrete surfaces by materials that allow rain water to infiltrate into the ground in our towns and city. Another way of conserving water is using wastewater rather than mains water for industrial processes and the installing more rainwater reservoirs. This could help reduce water consumption in Flanders by half.

Speaking about the Flemish Environment Minister Zuhal Demir’s (nationalist’s) so-called “Blue Deal” anti-drought action plan, Professor Willems said “We are already doing something, but we need to upscale”. 

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