THE HAGUE, Aug. 19 (Xinhua) -- The Netherlands should be prepared for more dry summers in the future, and take adaptive measures to tackle water shortages, a Dutch expert has said.
The current drought in the Netherlands is among the worst in the "5 percent driest years" that have been measured in the country, said water resources expert Martin Drenth in a recent interview with Xinhua.
The Netherlands has a three-level drought monitoring mechanism: impending drought, actual drought and a national crisis, he explained. Level one, or impending water shortage, was announced on July 13, while the next level was reached on August 3, when the Dutch government declared an official water shortage.
The drought has particularly affected shipping, agriculture and nature. Ships can no longer use some waterways or carry as much load as they used to, due to very low water levels. There are many more forest fires, and farmers in southern parts of the country are not allowed to take water from rivers for irrigation.
"The general trend is that drought will happen more regularly, although it's not certain yet to what extent," said Drenth.
In southern Europe, drought is expected to be much worse, but in northern Europe, more rain is expected due to climate change. However, for the Netherlands, the trend is "definitely more and more dry summers," Drenth said.
To ensure security for drinking water, the Dutch government has tried to keep water levels as high as possible, including that of the country's largest fresh water lake, Lake Ijssel.
Certain changes to the water system, so that water can be retained rather than being flushed out as fast as possible, would help alleviate the situation, Drenth said.
"The Dutch water system is really about draining water as fast as possible," he explained. "Because of that, the water system isn't really suited for droughts."
The Netherlands, a low-lying country in which around a third of the land is below sea level, has built infrastructures including dams and dykes to protect some 55 percent flood-prone areas. However, due to climate change, the country has experienced extreme drought in recent years.
Climate change plays a major role in causing longer dry seasons and warmer summers, and water systems must be adapted to that, Drenth said. "Addressing climate change is important, but climate adaptation is also important."
Cities need to be capable of handling both droughts and flooding, he explained, citing the "sponge city" concept used in China. Since 2015, the project has been piloted in 50 Chinese cities to reduce waterlogging, and to collect and recycle rainwater.
It is important for cities to be designed so that water can collect and infiltrate, rather than just flush into a river and end up in the sea, Drenth added.