One-fifth of the world’s fresh water reserves are in Russia, but the uneven distributions of the water amount across the territory and the pollution-spread have weakened the water and sanitation scenario of the nation
The Russian Federation has a unique potential of water resources. From the point of view of water resources availability, Russia ranks second in the world after Brazil. Russian renewable water resources (the volume of annual river flow on the territory of Russia) amount to 10 per cent of the world river flow.
However, the uneven distributions of the water amount across the territory and the pollution-spread have weakened the water and sanitation scenario of the nation.
Where The Weakness Lies
The main weak point of Russian water resources is in their extremely uneven distribution over the territory of the country. The greatest part of Russian water resources (90 percent) is concentrated in the basins of the Arctic Ocean and the Pacific Ocean, where less than 15 per cent of Russian population live.
The greatest shortage of water resources exists in the European part of the country – the basins of the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea – less than 10 per cent of the river flow fall on these territories.
Shockingly, the central and southern regions of European Russia, where 80 per cent of the country’s population and industry is concentrated, have only eight per cent of water resources.
Countrywide, the total water intake for domestic needs is relatively low – some three per cent of the average annual river flow. Nevertheless, in the basin of the Volga River it amounts to 33 per cent of the total Russian water intake and in a number of river basins this index exceeds the ecologically permissible volume of water abstraction.
Yes, one-fifth of the world’s fresh water reserves are in Russia. But, the country is plagued by pollution problems caused by the industrial legacy of the Soviet era. That is specifically worrying for Moscow, where the water supply is 70 per cent dependent on surface water.
Official regulatory bodies admit that 35 per cent to 60 per cent of total drinking water reserves in Russia do not meet sanitary standards.
More than ten million Russians lack access to quality drinking water. Sixty per cent of the country’s population drinks water from contaminated wells, mostly in rural, backwater regions. As a New York Times report from Moscow a few years ago concluded, in Russia “the rich buy bottled water, and the rest boil, hold their noses and drink.”
Shorter average life-span of the Russian population, compared to advanced industrial countries, to a large extent results from the consumption of the low-quality water. According to expert data, about 40 percent of surface water sources and 17 per cent of groundwater sources of drinking water supply do not meet the requirements established by the standards. Over 6000 areas of groundwater pollution are found on the Russian territory, and most of them are located in the European part of Russia.
In 2002, the capacity of the wastewater treatment plants was 56.1 million cubic metres a day, which is about the same as the 1995 level. The length of the sewerage network was 118,000 km.
The amount of wastewater passing through the plants in 2002 represents 86 per cent of wastewater emitted. Of this, only 28 per cent is treated in accordance with the established regulations, while the remainder is discharged insufficiently treated into rivers, lakes and the sea.
60 per cent of the wastewater treatment plants are overloaded and 38 per cent have been in operation for decades and need to be reconstructed.
The deficit in the capacity of sewerage systems at present is more than nine million cubic metres a day. 9,616 sewerage systems are in operation, but 44 towns (four per cent) and 582 urban type settlements (27 per cent) still had no central sewerage system in 2002.
As of 2014, there were at least 23 contracts with private companies to manage water utilities or plants with an investment commitment of almost two billion US dollars. 18 contracts cover entire utilities and 5 contracts cover individual plants.
Five of these contracts were signed before 2002, 17 in the 2003-2006 period. Only one contract – a 100 million dollars concession in Voronezh signed in 2012 – was awarded after 2006.
Eight of the 23 contracts are held by the conglomerate Alfa Group either directly or through its subsidiary Rosvodokanal. Its Russian competitor Integrated Energy Systems Holding (IES) holds four lease contracts.
The largest foreign investor in the Russian water sector is Austrian EVN Group, which holds three contracts for treatment plants. These include the largest water contract in Russia for the South-West Moscow drinking water plant, which was signed in 2004 with an investment commitment of 220 million US dollars.
The French water company Veolia is engaged in Russia through a contract for the Southern Water Treatment Plant signed in 2005. While some of these contracts were awarded through competitive bidding, most were awarded after direct negotiations.
The Saint Petersburg Project
In Russia, where the government often spins off regional waterworks to private operators, a pilot program run by the World Bank funded a treatment plant that has cut in half the amount of raw sewage flowing from the city of Saint Petersburg into the Baltic Sea.
In 2003, the Saint Petersburg utility signed a concession agreement for the Southwest wastewater treatment plant with a Swedish-Finnish consortium. The project was supported by loans from the European Bank for Reconstruction and Development (EBRD), the European Investment Bank (EIB). The Nordic Environment Finance Corporation owns part of the project company.
The idea of a concession for the entire water and wastewater system of Saint Petersburg was first floated in 2005. In parallel, a plan to bid out a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract for a water treatment plant was championed by the city governor Valentina Matvienko, but was abandoned in 2013. In the same year, the new city governor Georgy Poltavchenko announced plans to sign a 25-30 year concession agreement including investments of USD three billion. A tender was expected to be launched in 2014 “at the earliest”.
However, concessions such as the one planned for Saint Petersburg may not be financially viable because of the national water tariff freeze imposed. In October 2014 the city of Volgograd announced it would launch a bid for a 25-year concession involving investments of USD 500 million.
The Clean Water Of Moscow
The problem of providing the required reliability and environmental safety of Russian urban water supply systems has considerably aggravated as a result of the following factors: transfer to market economy, reforming the housing and utility complex under the conditions of considerably deteriorated and aged engineering life-support systems of Russian cities and settlements, lack of sufficient material and financial resources for the renovation of these systems.
As for the capital of Russia – the city of Moscow – in the past few years, the level of water supply in Moscow Water Supply System amounts to some 10-12 per cent of the total water supply. In fact, this is a good achievement, taking into account that the water supply network in Moscow is aging and deteriorating, while the level of its reconstruction and replacement is insufficient.
The strategy of water loss reduction is based on the implementation of four basic principles for real water loss regulation: 1) Promptness and quality of repair; 2) Active leakage management; 3) Network modernization and reconstruction; 4) Pressure management.
“The Clean Water of Moscow” program determines the basic ways for improving the reliability and safety of water-bearing pipelines and correspondingly, the reduction of all types of water losses:
•Application of reliable and durable types of pipes and fittings that would efficiently prevent internal and external corrosion, such as pipes made of high-duty spheroidal-graphite cast-iron
•Introduction of scientifically substantiated strategy for network rehabilitation and renovation
•Increasing the volume of pipeline re-laying and reconstruction, the trenchless technologies being preferable
•Application of pipeline technical diagnostics aimed at the assessment and prediction of pipe technical condition - Efficient protection of pipelines against external and internal corrosion
•Application of automated systems and information technologies for the control and monitoring of network operation
•Network pressure stabilization and monitoring
•Development of new (and updating of existing) regulatory and methodological documents and operating regulations that take into account the existing requirements for the reliability and ecological safety of pipelines.
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