Waterless Crimea

Analyze, Society

One of the most serious problems for occupied Crimea is a fresh water shortage. Termination of the Dnieper water supply through the North Crimean Canal immediately after the annexation aggravated the peninsula’s water supply problem dramatically. In 2014, they used the Dnieper water reserves and drilled deep-water wells, in 2015 – heavy rains in May and June and the transfer of water from other reservoirs to the waterless areas of the Eastern Crimea helped. Today, however, it is clear that these measures are not enough, so Crimea will face with a prospect of a water shortage in summer and autumn.


Ukrainian water in Crimea


North Crimean Canal

When Crimea was Ukrainian, it was provided with 80-85% of water due to water supplies from mainland Ukraine through the North Crimean Canal (NCC). For example, 1552.78 million cubic meters were supplied to the peninsula in 2013. About 80% of the Dnieper water was used for agricultural purposes, while the rest was pumped into specially constructed reservoirs (off-channel reservoirs).

In total, there are 23 water reservoirs – 15 natural flow and 8 off-channel (for the NCC water) reservoirs, which are in use on the peninsula. The total volume of natural reservoirs is 253.12 million cubic meters and the volume of artificial reservoirs – 146.35 million cubic meters. 

The largest water reservoirs of Crimea are Chernorechenskoye (64.2 million cubic meters) that supplies Sevastopol, Simferopolskoye (36 million cubic meters) and Partizanskoye (34 million cubic meters) reservoirs, the water of which goes to the needs of the Crimean capital, and Zagorskoye reservoir  (27.85 million cubic meters) to supply the Greater Yalta with water. Mezhgornoye water reservoir of 50 million cubic meters used to supply Simferopol and Sevastopol with water as well as the Frontovoye reservoir (35 million cubic meters) that supplies Kerch and Feodosia with water stood out from other off-channel reservoirs.    

However, the termination of the water supply from mainland Ukraine became a problem not for everyone – on the contrary, the Crimean “Speaker” Vladimir Konstantinov doesn’t hide his joy at the fact that Crimea was left without the “dirty Ukrainian water”. 

“The closure of the North Crimean Canal shouldn’t be regarded as a kind of tragedy… But we even took advantage of this situation as the canal was not equipped with the latest technologies for the transportation of water, and this water passed through the whole territory of Ukraine and was polluted by industrial wastes that affected its quality,” Konstantinov said.


Water problem in “Russian” Crimea

In 2014, the water problem was solved mainly by using of the remaining water in reservoirs of the North Crimean Canal as well as by drilling deep-water wells in the north and east of the peninsula. 


Shallowed Mezhgornoye water reservoir. Photo by Krym.Realii

As of April 1, 2014, the volume of water in the Mezhgornoye reservoir was 25.57 million cubic meters. This water was used to transfer it into the Chernorechenskoye reservoir to supply Sevastopol in summer and autumn of the same year. About 52 thousand cubic meters of water were transferred on a daily basis. As a result, there were not more than 15 million cubic meters of remaining water in the Mezhgornoye reservoir by October 2014 and it became empty by spring of 2015.      

The most difficult situation is with supplying water to the eastern areas of the occupied peninsula that have no natural reservoirs. Frontovoye, Kerchenskoye (of 24 million cubic meters) and Feodosiyskoye (15.37 million cubic meters) off-channel reservoirs had a total reserve of 75 million cubic meters and provided the life activity of the region.

Occupants offered to fill the NCC with ground waters from drilled deep-water wells as well as transfer water from other water reservoirs previously used for irrigation of agricultural lands as an alternative to supply the eastern areas of the peninsula.

For this purpose, combat engineers installed 48 pipelines totaling 412.4 km in length in April-May of 2015.       


Shallowed Belogorskoye water reservoir

Thus, water from Belogorskoye and Tayganskoye water reservoirs flowed to Kerch and Feodosia instead of irrigating gardens and vegetable gardens. The result of this ignorant policy of local “authorities” was not long in coming: in fall of 2015, both water reservoirs became shallow – water volume was only 20% of their total volume and there are grazing cows instead of swimming fish here now.     

Crimean officials hoped that the winter precipitation would help to improve the situation, but, alas, no miracle occurred, and water reservoirs remained half-empty. In this regard, local “authorities” introduced the high alert regime expecting emergencies in the area of supplying the fresh water in February 2016.     

In March, it became clear that they were preparing for emergencies not without reason: Crimean water reservoirs have been filled with an average of 46.2% during the winter season. At the same time, off-channel reservoirs were filled only with 4.5 million cubic meters during the first two months of 2016.

The spring season also didn’t bring any joy: 3 million cubic meters instead of expected 10-19 million cubic meters came in water reservoirs in March-April.

“According to many years of observations that we have (over 50 years), we had to receive from 10 to 19 million cubic meters of water to our water reservoirs during the spring period. Unfortunately, we received about 3 million cubic meters,” the “head” of the Crimean “State Committee” on Water Resources and Land Reclamation Igor Veil summed up.

At the same time, Belogorskoye and Tayganskoye water reservoirs, the water of which was supplied to the east of Crimea, were almost empty by May – about 3-4 million cubic meters (about 10% of the volume).


Salgir river

Alternatively, some Crimean officials offered to transfer the water of the largest peninsula’s river Salgir to the North Crimean Canal to supply the eastern areas of Crimea. In particular, this idea was voiced at one of the field meetings of the Crimean “Council of Ministers”.

“In order to provide the consumers of the Eastern Crimea, a proposal to transfer the Salgir river’s waters into the North Crimean Canal bed that will allow to supply additional water of up to 41 thousand cubic meters per day is worked out,” the Crimean “Deputy Prime Minister” Oleg Kazurin said.

However, this idea failed to gain support among water experts: summer water inflow into Salgir is minimal that won’t allow to take water from the river to transfer it to the east.

“Salgir is regulated in such a way that main water inflows fall within the winter period. In summer, it is impossible to take 20 thousand cubic meters, not to speak of 40 thousand cubic meters,” Veil responded to these proposals.

Deep wells can’t save the situation any longer – there are too many drilled wells and it has already led to a decrease in the water level, the hydro imbalance, the soil salinization and the rise of saline waters in wells.  

Nevertheless, the Russian “authorities” are desperately trying to put the best face on matters while convincing the Crimeans that there is enough water until the end of the year. In particular, according to Veil, there are 95.9 million cubic meters of water reserves in natural reservoirs as of May 19. 

At the same time, in 2013 (before the annexation of the peninsula), there were 125.3 million cubic meters of water accumulated in natural water reservoirs and 95.05 million cubic meters – in off-channel water reservoirs (in total, 220.35 million cubic meters). In other words, on the summer 2016 eve, the peninsula’s water reserve is 2 times less than in the pre-occupation period.

The water shortage problem is one of the most pressing problems for Crimea. The lack of Dnieper water has already led to the decline of agriculture in many areas of the peninsula. It seems like the people living on the peninsula will face with another severe test – a life in conditions of acute shortage of drinking water this summer.


Olga Efimova

 for Pod Pritselom   

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