Stormwater Poland 2023

We would like to invite you to the cyclical Stormwater Poland series conference for the seventh time. It is to take place in Katowice on 27-28 September 2023. For the third time, we would like to make use of the hospitality and potential of the Poland’s largest metropolitan area of Upper Silesia and Zagłębie, which is a special place in Poland as well as in the entire Europe, where contemporary challenges of climate change, transformation and decarbonisation of the economy, demographic transformations and, what is crucial for us, water management in the difficult area of the drainage divide between Poland’s two largest rivers, the Vistula and the Oder, occur.

The slogan for this year’s Stormwater Poland 2023 conference is Adaptation with quality”. This slogan stems from a number of global challenges, premises of a worldwide or at least European nature. These are directly reflected in local conditions, overlapping with global trends. Unfortunately, according to the WMO State of the Global Climate report 2022, the average global temperature in 2022 was 1.15 °C higher than the 1850-1900 average. The last eight years have been the warmest ever measured since the aforementioned 1850, which can be equated with the beginning of the Industrial Age. And with all this, it was Europe that was the fastest warming region between 1991 and 2021, with an average temperature rise of around +0.5°C per decade. These climate changes translate particularly negatively into the dynamics of the hydrological cycle, as glacier melt records were recorded last year in the Alps due to low snowfall and the influx of Saharan dust in March 2022 and heat waves between May and early September. It is estimated that glaciers in Switzerland have lost a third of their ice volume in the last 20 years!

It is always good to think globally, but action can and should be taken locally. It is therefore necessary to step up work to secure the future of local communities in a worsening climate. As we already know, one of the major challenges is adapting drainage systems to climate change. We need to do this not only for ourselves and our children. After the war broke out, we opened our homes to Ukrainians seeking refuge. The prolonged war means that we have to improve, or at least stabilise, living conditions in our cities for an increased number of residents, including our new neighbours and their children.

We therefore want to devote the first day of the conference to a comprehensive understanding of climate change adaptation of drainage systems, or more broadly the adaptation of urban hydrology to the challenges of climate change. Using specific examples of Polish cities of different sizes, we want to show that this is a process that is actually happening, it is possible to occur and it produces particular results. We also want to demonstrate the tools and technologies that can help us significantly in this, even in the case of areas that have been highly transformed by man through industrial and mining activities. Of course, nothing can be achieved without financial investment. Hence, on the first day of the conference, we are planning to present the possibilities of financing adaptation work from EU funds, with the FEnIKS programme [European Funds for Infrastructure, Climate, Environment Programme] at the forefront. The last objective of the first day of the conference is also to draw attention to the fact that new adaptation measures must have a new quality. This new quality should be based on two pillars. The first is the strong promotion of blue-green infrastructure solutions, i.e. measures that are close to everyone in the city. The second is to focus attention no longer only on the quantity of rainwater and snowmelt (i.e. flood and drought issues), but on the quality of rainwater.

It is the quality of rainwater or snowmelt, but also, in general, of the water surrounding us in the cities that we are privileged to use, that we want to devote the second day of the conference to. Last year in Poland, the symbol of climate change was not, as in Switzerland, the melting glaciers but the dying river Oder. As with any catastrophe, there were probably many factors causing it, but they also included high temperatures, drought, excessive discharges of pollutants and, as a result, algal blooms. This spring, when we write these words in the media, there are more and more questions with a common denominator: will there be a repeat of this disaster this year? Building fear and an atmosphere of danger will certainly not help much here. It certainly will not increase the supply of clean water to the river or reduce the load of pollutants entering it, especially at such a hostile time of war when, for obvious reasons of protecting the security of our country, the production of heavy industry located in Silesia must be activated. Guided by these pragmatic considerations, we want on the second day to present solutions for treating rainwater or snowmelt and reducing emissions from storm overflow structures. These will include examples not only of individual technologies, but also of conceptual and modelling work undertaken on a larger scale of the entire drainage area. We will also address the issue of reducing water abstractions from the river, or groundwater, through greater use of in situ retained rainwater. Finally, in compliance with the tradition of previous years, we hope to present inspiring case studies from abroad. Our intention here is especially to demonstrate water quality or algal bloom forecasting tools already in operation around the world. Importantly, these will be solutions based on data obtained from the space domain, which is increasingly entering our lives, specifically from the use of remote sensing, such as satellite imagery. The rhetorical question is how much does the quality of our work and its effects on the environment depend on how good the data and modern tools we use are?

We hope that the Stormwater Poland 2023 programme, prepared with the participation of invited speakers and conference partners, will respond to the challenges you face and inspire you in adaptation combined with care for the quality of the surrounding environment in which the water that animates it circulates. We invite you together to Katowice on 27 and 28 September 2023.

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