Hydrologically, Czech Republic is unique in Europe. No river from another country flows through the region, making the country self-sufficient on its own water sources. It may seem counterintuitive that a region which has suffered from great floods, could have its water security compromised by droughts. In Prague, the 2002 flood alone caused damages as high as €1 billion.
Moreover, compared to the communist era, Czechs have become more conscious of water prices and significantly decreased their clean water consumption. Since the mid-1990s, average water consumption has decreased by half. As the capital, Prague has the highest consumption of 109 liters per person per day but, compared to Western Europe or the United States, this is still a relatively low amount. In recent years, the average Czech drinking water consumption has been so low that it has reportedly reached the so-called hygienic minimum, which is determined by the World Health Organization to be 90 to 100 liters per person per day.
Also, as the representative of Association of Water Supply and Sewerage (SOVOK) Filip Wanner reminds, before the Velvet revolution of 1989 and subsequent downfall of communism, as much as 40% of drinking water was lost through pipeline leakages. This has been improved upon since the privatization of water services in Prague in the 1990s. Prague’s Water Supply and Sewerage Systems company (PVS) managed to increase the efficiency and steadily lower leakages to 13,5% in 2018 (see more on PVS’s website).
However, while the city of Prague seems to be improving its water conservation and service efficiency, increasing temperatures fuelled by climate change could present a considerable challenge to the region. Due to its low groundwater levels, the country is heavily dependent on surface water from precipitation and melting snow. Because high temperatures increase evaporation, droughts endanger surface sources and thus water security. Extended heat can also damage the underground water pipes and, as a consequence, increase water supply outages. In 2018, “the number of incidents exceeded 5 000 for the first time”. Data supplied by PVS shows this trend to be increasing over the last ten years: in 2010, there were 3,960 incidents; in 2015 there were 4,677.
Bottom line: Drinking water consumption in the Czech Republic has significantly decreased since the communist era. However, increasing droughts and temperatures threaten the water security of a seemingly water -abundant region.
* Please help my Water Scarcity students by commenting on unclear analysis, alternative perspectives, better data sources, or maybe just saying something nice 🙂