From sky to soil: supporting water security and biodiversity in Poland

Did you know that freshwater availability is changing around the world, with wet areas getting wetter and dry areas drier? Many people don’t, and they are equally unaware of the potentially catastrophic impact this can have on ecosystems and society. 

Magdalena Grońska, Health, Safety and Environment Director at Holcim Poland is acutely aware of the challenge we are facing: “People, nature and the economy – we all depend on water,” she says. As such, Magdalena is proud of the work we have done to harvest rainwater from one of Europe’s largest quarries to revitalize Poland’s Kujawy region. 

According to the World Economic Forum, hotspots are emerging worldwide with too much or too little water, due to changing extremes of flooding and drought and depletion of aquifers. Alongside acute water shortages, biodiversity loss is accelerating as well.

Time for action in a water-risk region 


Kujawy is one of these water-stressed hotspots, and with action needed to better manage freshwater sources across the world, Holcim’s team in Poland worked with local officials to provide an innovative solution for this region, advancing our vision of a nature-positive future. 

Kujawy Quarry, where we operate in Poland, is Europe’s largest open-pit limestone quarry. Until recently, all of the quarry drainage water was discharged into the Noteć River and flowed directly into the Baltic Sea, instead of being used locally for farmlands and forests. 

At the same time, the Kujawy Region is facing water risks exacerbated by extreme rainfall events. In some months, there is little rainfall and in others, the rain is torrential. A shortage of water is causing environmental problems: the forest has deteriorated, ponds have dried out and birdlife has disappeared.

A unique freshwater source 

Since Kujawy Quarry collects 1.5 million m3 of rainwater each year in a watertight rock structure that acts as a reservoir, our team in Poland invited the State Forests National Forest Holding to take advantage of this unique source of freshwater. 

With the State Forests, we put in place an innovative solution to supply water to the forest bordering Kujawy and restore its biodiversity, creating favorable conditions for new species, plants, animals and birds to thrive. The investment will rehydrate the area and bring marshes and ponds back to life that have disappeared over the last 50 years due to water shortages.

I’m really proud of and grateful for what our team and the incredible professionals from State Forests did at Kujawy Quarry. It shows how our quarries can be part of the solution to restore and preserve biodiversity.

Maciej Sypek| CEO at Holcim Poland

How did our Polish team and State Forests get the job done? They drained water from the quarry into a reservoir, then pumped it up over a height of 60 meters to irrigate a network of channels and retention ponds in the forests, delivering up to 750,000 m3 of water each year. 

Holcim’s local team has a stringent quality control process in place to guarantee top quality water. No chemicals are added during the extraction process and no industrial water is processed.

“Water is life!” for Kujawy’s ecosystems 

With a 30-year project commitment Holcim is in it for the long-term, and local environmental experts agree that it will be possible to restore water conditions similar to those that existed in the 1970s, as well as create new ecosystems. The humidity of forest habitats and wetlands will improve as well, helping new species of flora and fauna to flourish.

Everyone looks forward to spring, and Magdalena explains that she is looking forward to seeing life return to Kujawy this year.

Wetlands are one of the most endangered ecosystems in Europe. They support many different species that depend on them.  They support many different species that depend on them.

Magdalena Grońska| Health, Safety and Environment Director at Holcim Poland

This investment gives hope for an improvement in the situation, in line with the principle that water is life!

Dariusz Kosmider| Forester in the Golabki Forest District
Nature-positive future

At Holcim, we are committed to delivering a nature-positive future. With the launch of our nature strategy, Holcim is among the 1% of the 500 largest global companies with science-driven biodiversity targets, and the first in our sector with a freshwater replenishment commitment. 

Our Nature Strategy sets out measurable 2030 targets to restore and preserve biodiversity and water, while at the same time bringing more nature into cities. Our positive impact on biodiversity is based on transformative rehabilitation plans and measured by a science-based methodology developed in partnership with the International Union for Conservation of Nature (IUCN).

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