Russia’s Water

From Russia Profile, an interesting look at Russia’s freshwater situation.  As the article notes, issues of distribution, pollution, and excessive use abound:

“..Rich with almost every resource that matters, Russia never had to worry about the quantity, but rather about the quality. Now, this seems to be particularly the case with water, a resource which has been under the radar until various global regions with skyrocketing populations began sensing a water shortage.

Russia, a country in possession of enough water resources for many times its own population, has suffered heavy pollution from its aging industrial capacities and other factors that contribute to the worsening quality of its water. Tapping the vast amounts of groundwater could eliminate some of the risks, but the government is taking a different approach by institutionalizing the problem of containing water damage and rationalizing consumption.

The world it starting to get ever more concerned about a shortage of water, which could become critical due to the fast population growth, especially in the developing world.

Asia and Africa host 73 percent of the world’s population while possessing just 47 percent of the global water supply. In Europe, and particularly in Russia, the shortage isn’t expected to be as sharply felt as in Asia, but most countries are nonetheless starting to take the necessary steps to preclude any crisis by saving as much water as possible today.

Russia has plenty of renewable water resources–over 4,300 cubic kilometers, comparable to the whole of Europe which has 6,590 cubic kilometers, or 9,089 cubic meters per capita. In Russia this number stands at over 30,000 cubic meters per capita.

“It’s no secret that Russia is rich with water resources, but it’s not enough to have the potential, it’s also important to have it equally distributed along the whole territory of the country,” said Maria Seliverstova, deputy head of the Federal Agency for Water Resources.

This equality of distribution is absent in Russia, where about 80 percent of the population resides in the European part of the country, in possession of only eight percent of water resources. The rest is found in the scarcely populated regions east of the Urals.

Another factor that is aggravating the water problem is the purpose of the water use. About 20 percent is consumed by households, including drinking water, 13 to 14 percent more is used in agriculture, and up to 60 percent is consumed by the industries. “While we do have the resource, its quality can set certain limits for efficient water use,” said Seliverstova. “Sixty percent is too much, this number has to be optimized and lowered,” she added.

Surface water makes for the one resource that is extremely susceptible to pollution and man-induced damage. The other source of water that is looked upon in case surface water becomes no longer usable is groundwater reservoirs. Russian groundwater reserves amount to 28,000 cubic kilometers, with over 3,000 known reservoirs. Less than 50 percent of these reservoirs are in use.

“Today, the role of groundwater in satiating the needs of the households and the demand in drinking water is growing in most countries,” said Laboratory Chief of the Institute for Water Problems of the Russian Academy of Sciences Igor Zektser. The share of groundwater that Russians consume amounts to 50 percent and it is reportedly increasing. The current daily per capita consumption of groundwater in Russia amounts to 170 liters.

Moscow serves as one example of a major city and production center that has had to deal with certain problems in providing its inhabitants with the necessary amount of water. “Moscow is the only big city in the world without a reliable water source,” said Zektser.

The level of groundwater in Moscow has gone down by nearly 90 meters as a result of overly intense exploitation. Water consumption has also been looking down over the past 20 years, as the per capita usage fell from the daily rate of 560 liters in the beginning of the 1990s to the current 300 liters. The Moscow region is very ctively employing groundwater, while small towns have nearly run out of this resource. Vast reserves of groundwater about 90 to 100 kilometers away from Moscow could serve as a substitute for surface water, should this resource exhaust itself while suffering too much damage from uncontrolled pollution.

The reason groundwater is considered a prime source of potable water is its quality as well as better protection from various forms of pollution. But one of its serious downsides is a high concentration of minerals such as fluorine, especially in the south of the country. Water purification is currently one of the most stinging issues as, according to the experts, not a single method which is currently used to purify water, including groundwater, guarantees complete safety.

“The issues of purifying water should be our prime concern,” said Laboratory Chief of the Sysin Scientific and Research Institute of Human Ecology and Environmental Hygiene Zoya Zheldakova. “The crucial thing here is to deter possible pollution; even when water is boiled, the steam will still contain certain volatile substances.”

Water purification is presently high on the state’s agenda. The Russian government is working on the concept of a national program dubbed Clean Water, which has been in work since February. The program is aiming to audit the industrial legislation in order to devise regulation which would contain the pollution, promote private investment into development of the waterworks and work on the modernization of the existing water facilities.

It is also expected that a governing body that will oversee the development of the waterworks will be established.

“Evaluating the safety of the functioning industries is among the state’s priorities today,” said Zheldakova. “Water facilities in the European part of the country are seriously polluted, so we’re expecting the most advanced purification technologies to be implemented as a direct result of these measures.”

The complex issue of preserving water resources goes beyond harnessing the contemporary purification techniques and improving the industrial sector. “When thinking of the water resources, we have to think about keeping our greenery, if we don’t do that we won’t save the water for this world,” said Zheldakova.”

This entry was posted on Sunday, September 28th, 2008 at 6:05 am and is filed under Russia.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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