Water authorities cannot prevent flooding as a result of climate change by adding extra pumping capacity. More water storage in open water and in the ground is needed to ensure that wet late summers do not regularly develop into disasters for growers. This was the message from the water authority board and farmer Lies Struik during the Nederlandse Akkerbouw Verbond (Dutch Farmers’ Association) congress about climate change.
In recent years it has become increasingly common for large amounts of rain to fall within an hour during heavy late summer storms. Struik referred to the end of August 2015 and mid-October 2013. “The 12 percent extra emergency pumping is insufficient to prevent damage for farmers”, said Struik. He mentioned the example of 70 millimetres of rainfall in an hour, while the pumping capacity in the area is just half a millimetre per hour. Pumps need to work for days to pump away that amount of water. In his opinion, water storage in agricultural areas and in other areas is therefore an important action point for the future.
The soil can also store more water if organic matter is raised to a higher level. “Each one percent more organic matter equals 4 percent more water storage capacity”, said Struik. These days 150 millimetres more rain falls in the Netherlands annually than a century ago. “Most of the rain falls at the end of the growing season.” In Struik’s opinion, if measures are not taken, the damage could be significant and this will make harvesting difficult for farmers.
Water authorities do address the problems locally with emergency pumps. “We can use radar to better forecast where the rainfall will be and to ensure that pumps are transferred to the right places. Farmers can use soil management, drainage, water storage, convex surfacing of plots and insurance to take the more complex climate scenario into account”, said Struik.
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