A best practice of the institutional, infrastructural, human and cultural tools to facilitate adaptation to climate change
Rákócziújfalu is one of the 5 pilot sites representing typical water risk situations associated with small settlements in Hungary, amplified by climate change. In many cases, no expensive investments are needed as the municipalities own and have the right to use the various assets but institutional, infrastructural, human and cultural assets are available, and all these are based on local natural assets
Rákócziújfalu is a small village with 1871 inhabitants and a territory of 1961 hectares. This region is situated in the centre of the Tisza River Basin and is extremely exposed to floods, inland excess water inundations, droughts, heat waves and heavy rainfalls.
Among these water risks, inland excess water inundation is a special Hungarian phenomenon, which affects large areas and large groups of the population. Excess water in the lowland areas of the Tisza River Basin originates from specific meteorological, hydrological and morphological conditions on saturated or frozen surface layers as a result of sudden melting snow or heavy precipitation, or as a result of groundwater flooding.
This undrained runoff or excess water does not flow from the affected area by gravity because the natural connections to the river were broken by the flood protection dykes. Consequently, this type of inundation causes significant damage to agriculture or even to infrastructure and settlements. Nevertheless, this water could be used later, in summer drought periods, when farmers use electricity to pump groundwater and operate expensive irrigation systems.
Besides excess water, the village is exposed to increasingly frequent heavy rainfalls which cause local flash floods in the village. As this is one of the driest regions of Hungary, the exposure to droughts is also extremely high, especially in July and August.
Agriculture plays an important role in the region as a key economic sector. Two big food and beverage companies have factories in the neighbouring settlement. Heineken brewery produces and bottles beer made of barley, while Bunge produces crude vegetable oil made of sunflower and rapeseed.
Barley, sunflower and rapeseed in the Great Hungarian Plain are all exposed to excess water, floods, droughts, heat waves and heavy rains. In an average year, a barley, sunflower or rapeseed farmer has difficulties sowing and planting due to excess water inundation; then frequent heatwaves, long droughts and unpredictable heavy rainfalls cause crop failures.
The municipality has identified its accessible natural assets (channels and natural depressions) and aims to design and implement NWRM to capture excess water in inundation periods and rainwater in heavy rain periods and retain this water to help reduce the risk of droughts.