Pilot action of the LIFE-MICACC project in Püspökszilágy, Hungary
Püspökszilágy is situated in the North Hungarian Mountains. In the project, it represents the climate change-related problems of upland villages
The location of the village is extraordinary, as it lies on the drainage divide between the Danube and Tisza river basins. The key surface water is the Szilágyi stream, which is a minor brook with a small catchment area (10 km2). The annual mean precipitation is only ~600 mm/yr.
All these geographical characteristics make the village extremely exposed to droughts. Besides, Püspökszilágy has experienced record-level flash floods every two-three years in the last 10-20 years which had never happened before.
Both flash floods and droughts cause significant damage to agriculture, residential areas and infrastructure. In the upper watershed, the croplands and some forests dominate the landscape, covering steep slopes which significantly increase soil erosion and flash flood risks. Huge amounts of sediment (soil loss) can be observed in certain creeks and gullies in times of flash floods.
In the lower watershed, where the settlement is built, the floodplain along the Szilágyi stream does not fulfil its water retention role which leads to a broken balance between the stream and the valley bottom. In the summer, the valley bottom completely dries, which has negative impacts on agriculture, ecosystems and the groundwater level. On the other hand, flash floods cause damage to public and residential buildings.
In this project, the aim of Püspökszilágy has been to coordinate local adaptation efforts and balance water stress periods through NWRM, which will result in reduced risk of flash floods and sediment loads and improved water availability for summer drought periods.
The municipality intends to design NWRMs in both the upper and the lower watersheds, that will demonstrate how upland municipalities can respond to climate change vulnerability through integrated, basin-scale NWRM implementation. It is important to show that the municipality can adapt using its natural assets, such as the stream, the valley and the erosional gullies that join it. The NWRM will be deployed at two key locations.
On the upper watershed, Püspökszilágy aims to retain the water from flash floods as well as the sediment load, before it reaches the built environment. For this purpose, four wooden check dams will be built in the gullies and the Szilágyi stream. The retained water will nourish the upland croplands and forests. On the lower watershed, croplands and built environment dominate the valley bottom of the stream. A part of the Szilágyi stream’s floodplain will be restored as a wetland and lake system to increase the water retention capacity that accommodates and stores flood and sediment and reduces drought risk. Besides, a wooden check dam will be built right above the wetland system to retain sediment that would otherwise block bottlenecks, i.e. bridges.