If Belgium sees another dry summer this year, the results could be catastrophic for the country’s agriculture, experts have warned.
Starting from an unusually low point one month ago, 93% of the measuring points in Flanders have recorded a drop in groundwater levels. Of the 154 measuring points, levels at 63% are now considered ‘low to very low’.
The problem is the abnormally low rainfall over the period since mid-March, coming on top of levels that were already low following a a dry winter.
Groundwater levels were more or less normal at the beginning of March, says the Flemish environment agency VMM, but by the beginning of April 45.5% had dropped to the low to very low level.
That critical level has now been reached by 64% of measuring points. And the problem is spread across the region.
“We did experience a stabilisation at the end of April, beginning of May, when some rain fell,” said Katrien Smet of the VMM. “That was certainly good news, otherwise we would have had even lower groundwater levels. We are now, in early May, in a comparable situation to last May.”
The trouble is, the only solution to the problem is rainfall, and we are now at the beginning of what would be expected to be a dry season.
"This is a situation we will continue to monitor very closely,” said Smet. “We have also noticed that watercourses now have a low flow rate, especially the unnavigable watercourses, such as in the Maas, Dijle and Demer basin. Here, preventive measures are already in place to keep the water as high as possible, possibly with weirs or valves.”
The only good news: there is for the time being no danger to drinking water.
“The situation is not yet such that we have to take measures. But we will also closely monitor that position. We are more vigilant. Anyway it is not a good idea to waste water at any time of the year. Private citizens certainly should not have to wait for government action.”
The Brussels Times