A man fishes in the Vistula river in Warsaw. AFP
With his two fishing rods planted firmly on the bank of the Vistula river, 85-year-old Tadeusz Norberciak peers at rocks exposed on the dry riverbed, a telling sign of Poland's looming water crisis.
"I can't remember water levels being as low as what we've seen in recent years, it's tragic", says the pensioner, sporting a fisherman's vest and cap for protection against the blazing sun.
"Further north, it's even worse, the Vistula looks like puddles," he said on a part of the waterway passing through the capital Warsaw.
Hundreds of rivers and in Poland are drying up little by little.
According to experts, the central European country of 38 million people risks a serious water crisis in the coming years.
"Our (water) resources are comparable to those of Egypt," it said in the report bearing the ominous title: "Poland, European Desert."
Contrary to popular belief, Poland, which is located at the confluence of oceanic and continental climate zones, has never had much water.
It receives less rainfall than countries further west, while the rate of evaporation is comparable.
Warmer winters with less snow mean that groundwater is not being replenished by spring melts.
And Poland captures little of this water, which experts say is a big part of the problem.
The result is that a vast strip of land across the country is slowly turning into steppe -- semi-arid grass-covered plains, that threatens agriculture, forests and wildlife.
With climate change, more frequent droughts and only brief and often violent rainstorms, experts insist the situation is reaching a critical threshold.
Over 320 municipalities have already imposed water restrictions carrying heavy fines. Some have banned filling swimming pools, watering gardens or washing cars.
The shortages are triggering social conflict.
Residents of Sulmierzyce in central Poland accuse a local open pit brown coal mine of syphoning off water.
"Parts of the country are already experiencing hydrogeological drought — a situation when water doesn't enter the deep layers of the soil and is not filtered in springs," says Wody polskie's Kiergiel.
Experts insist that capturing more water is crucial.
Lacking sufficient reservoirs, Poland retains only 6.5 percent of the water that passes through its territory, while Spain manages to keep nearly half.
"We're only just discovering that Poland has an issue with water... We thought it was a sub-Saharan Africa problem, not a European one," says Leszek Pazderski, an environmental expert with Greenpeace Poland.
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