Much-needed water

Speech by Carl Decaluwé – Governor of West Flanders – 6 December 2018

Of this booklet I only found a Dutch version. But the ideas are too good not to share.

The story in the introduction to the booklet begins as follows:

“The mother of all today’s disaster scenarios is undeniably climate disruption. Last summer [in 2018] in our country was the warmest since records began in 1833. The past two years have also been exceptionally warm summers. Meanwhile, the polar ice caps are melting at an alarming rate. However, those facts are not the most frightening, but the fact that many still do not face the implications of this.”

The North Pole is both an indicator and a driver of the climate. This has to do with a disturbed weather pattern: the “polar vortex” has broken in two. The climate is changing and causing both drought and flooding. Even the Global Seed Vault ran into problems in the process.

But coastal areas are also in trouble and broadly in the following ways: due to the climate, rising sea levels, salinization and meteo and hydro-extremes.

The takeaway from all this is that extreme action is needed.

“Historically, we have always adapted water management to the needs of people. This policy is no longer tenable. An integrated approach is needed. We have to adapt our needs to the availability of water.” So concludes the author in the introduction.


So there is a great vulnerability: we need the water to

  • Live
  • Survive
  • Maintain a good quality of life

But it is in fact only present to a limited extent. Pumping groundwater has the disadvantage that it promotes salinization, and that we use it up. One of the causes/phenomena of/with the problem is that we are used to it always being there. The problem is also very location-dependent.

Water is a top priority

Water is a top international priority. This speech includes a number of contributions from experts. These range from a sketch of the situation to what we can do about our situation in Flanders. Some of the lessons identified are:

  • There is a shortage of water in several countries. This can give rise to competition and increases the likelihood of conflict. Priorities must therefore be set for distribution.
  • Despite the fact that Flanders is one of the driest regions in Western Europe, there is little sense of urgency.
  • What we can do in the short term: save, protect, avoid waste.
  • Creating storage space is good for drought and shortages as well as flooding. But there is little room for it, and spatial planning has been handled thoughtlessly. However, the question is: does it have to be above ground?
  • Tap water is an essential source of water for most. However, rainwater is becoming increasingly important.
  • Groundwater is of good quality and highly sought after. But the cycle to replenish it is 10 years to 1000s of years. Salinization in the polders is a consequence of excessive pumping.
  • There is also the so-called “virtual water”. This can have a lot of impact when importing.
  • More production causes problems with water management.
  • Reducing exports in countries with water shortages is better for local ecosystems. But this is not taken into account enough.
  • However, a holistic view is growing among many. We will have to opt for so-called. “low-water” products.

From Chapter 3 onwards, it is mainly about the situation in West Flanders. A remark is very important: this situation gives Flanders the opportunity to find solutions and thus be ahead of the rest of the world. We can then propagate these solutions again.

Title: “The Much-Needed Water”, Speech by Carl Decaluwé, Province of West Flanders, URL:

Manu Steens

Manu works at the Flemish Government in risk management and Business Continuity Management. On this website, he shares his own opinions regarding these and related fields.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *

Recent Posts