Occupied Crimea is running out of water


Occupied Crimea is on the brink of an environmental disaster. In 20 years, most of the peninsula could become a salty desert. Crimean residents already face a shortage of fresh water. The Kremlin and the self-proclaimed “authorities” of the peninsula are not able to solve the problem and blame Kyiv for destabilizing the situation in the region. Serhiy Stelmakh [the name was changed due to the security reasons], a Crimean journalist of RFE/RL, assumes that Russia is preparing an ultimatum to Ukraine – either it unblocks the channel which provided water to the peninsula, or the Kremlin will use its power.

The situation with water is so critical that even Russian authorities have to recognize it and speak about it openly.

“The situation with providing water resources to the population and economy of the Crimean peninsula is rather complicated. The total water intake in 2016 fell fivefold compared to 2014,” Nikolay Matrushev, Secretary of the Security Council of Russia, stated on 27 June 2017 while visiting Simferopol.

He said that the problem was most acute in eastern Crimea, where the area of irrigated land fell by 92%, and fisheries and industrial enterprises suffer, while the problem of supplying water to the other parts was solved. Traditionally all the blame was put on the Ukrainian side.

To a great extent, the Crimean peninsula depends on water from the Dnipro river which was brought from the mainland through the North Crimean canal. After Russia occupied Crimea in 2014, Ukraine dammed the canal. Despite making loud statements, Russia could not find any alternative to it. Let’s take a look at the situation from the beginning.

The North Crimean canal

North Crimean canal. Photo: antikor.com.ua

The canal was built in the 1960s to provide water from the river Dnipro, located in mainland Ukraine, to northern Crimea. Then, the region was sparsely populated due to the aridity of the territory. Later, the construction of the channel moved westward to the Kerch peninsula. Water reservoirs for the nearby villages and towns were built around the channel.

The arid steppe and salinated soil were transformed. The area of irrigated by the channel lands exceeded the areas irrigated by the local sources by 3 times.

There were plans to extend the channel to central Crimea and the resort-saturated southern coast. But in the 1980s the project’s funding was reduced significantly and these plans were not realized.

In the best years, the canal brought about 3 bn cubic meters of water to Crimea annually (the volume of all local sources is only 1 bn cubic meters on average).


The problems. The canal solved many problems of the peninsula. However, it caused others.

  1. The groundwater level in the irrigated areas was raised, so the settlements located in the area of the main channel and its branches were under the threat of flooding.
  2. The soil became salinized, and the existing water bodies became polluted from fertilizers and pesticides which came with the agricultural development of the territory.

At first, the course of the canal was smeared with clay. Later, it was lined with concrete plates; however, water loss was common.

“And then came the collapse of the Soviet Union. Even if you isolate the channel with concrete, you need to monitor it. During the 23 years of Ukraine’s independence this was done, to put it mildly, irregularly. In some areas the isolation was broken, and a very strong infiltration of water into the surrounding grounds took place. As there was a lot of water, no one paid proper attention to the losses. As a result, the soil horizons were saturated with moisture. When moisture evaporates from the soil, the minerals that were dissolved in the water remain. If you continue to supply water from above, these salts will be washed down and settle at a lower horizon. And while the channel existed, it was this way, the soils were washed, the salt went to the lower horizons, everything was fine,”

says Anton Novikov, the Senior Lecturer of the Department of Eco-Geology and Nature Management of the Moscow Lomonosov State University Lomonosov in Sevastopol.

Nowadays, experts point to problems created by the canal’s construction. It allowed for activities which were previously not possible in the area, like fish farming, cultivation of gardens and vineyards. But another new activity was the cultivation of rice – which is nonsense for Crimea’s arid climate.

During several years preceding the occupation, the water volume coming to Crimea through the canal dropped significantly, about three times. It was possible to fill only 8 out of 23 water reservoirs. All the reservoirs were used for supplying drinking water. Their water levels did not depend on the weather. The only thing needed was to have enough money to pay for electricity required to power the pumping stations.

As of 2012, water from the Dnipro supplied 85% of Crimea’s consumption.

“Thanks to the channel Crimea, will never be left without water,” wrote the newspaper of the Verkhovna Rada, or local parliament, of Crimea in 2012.

Occupation. In April 2014, after the beginning of the Russian occupation of the peninsula, Ukraine blocked the canal.

A temporary dam in the adjacent Kherson Oblast was built, blocking the water from entering occupied Crimea. A metering device was envisioned in case if the sides came to an agreement on the price and conditions of supplying fresh water to Crimea.

In 2015, the Ukrainian government allocated money for a permanent dam on the canal. Nowadays the new dam blocks water from the Dnipro from flowing to Crimea. The channel is filled with water which is used for the irrigation system of the Kherson Oblast.

Oleksandr Romanenko, Head of Management of the canal, says that the dam is only one of the stages of the arrangement of a new irrigation system for the Kherson Oblast. With its help, the Kherson Oblast will increase its irrigated area, and, subsequently, harvests.

There is already a shortage of fresh water in the north of occupied Crimea. Photo:zik.ua

Russia’s solution. When Ukraine blocked the canal, Crimea attempted to cope with the water shortage by pumping out groundwater from underground horizons through wells. The majority of the wells draw water from the first horizon, closest to the surface. Previously, it was saturated by water from the canal and by salts. As the inflow of fresh water was cut off, these salts are accumulating, leading to the salinization of the groundwater. Crimea is surrounded by the salty water on all sides. The intensive extraction of fresh water leads to its replacement by salty water from the sea.

Another measure was to direct water from the local river Biyuk-Karasu to the canal, which starts in the Crimean mountains on the south of the peninsula. The river flowed in the opposite direction but was redirected. This helped to somewhat compensate the losses of water. However, a part of the water is lost on the way due to bad isolation of the canal and evaporation.

Russia’s federal program on the development of the peninsula drew up a plan of measures to provide water for Crimea. One of the measures includes the construction of a conduit from the Krasnodar Krai of Russia across the Kerch Strait on top of the envisioned landbridge. But that region is also an arid one, and doesn’t have the needed amount of water.

Experts point out that the general climate trends are not favorable to Crimea either:

“There is no water at all, not only in Crimea. There is no water in Ukraine, which is why the output of hydroelectric power stations fell there. There is no water in Kuban. To be clear there is water but now there is less of it. And the water outputs in the Volga cascade also decreased This is a global climate trend,” explains Novikov.

The situation in the occupied peninsula would be better if Russia stopped spending the scarce resources on the growing needs of the military infrastructure and military personnel there. Photo: investigator.org.ua

Russia’s responsibility. According to the Geneva Convention, the occupying power carries responsibility for the situation in the territory it occupied.

“It defines clearly that the international community holds the occupying country fully responsible for providing for the vital activity of the population of the occupied territory. So this is a problem for Russia,”

says Andriy Senchenko, the head of the NGO Syla Prava [“The Power of Law”].

Experts estimate that Crimea has enough water from its own sources, without the Dnipro water, only for 1 million people.

“We estimated the water supply of different regions of Ukraine. Crimea has of 380 cubic meters per person per year, whereas 1,700 cubic meters per year is considered the norm per person according to the UN classification. Therefore, we classified Crimea as a region with a catastrophically low water supply,”

said Mykhailo Romashchenko, the head of the Institute of Water Problems and amelioration.

As of the beginning of 2017, the population of Crimea is 2 340 92, according to the local statistics. But there is no data on the amount of Russian soldiers, the members of their families and Russian authorities sent to business trips to Crimea, as well as Russian Ministry of Internal Affairs and the Federal Security Service [FSB].

Volodymyr Yelchenko, the Permanent Representative of Ukraine to the United Nations, is confident that the situation in the occupied peninsula would be better if Russia stopped spending the scarce resources on the growing needs of the military infrastructure and military personnel there.

He is also confident that all the water problems can be solved by the de-occupation of Crimea and that for Russia the water question is another instrument of propaganda.

The consequences. The agrarians already experience the water problems in full, as all the water goes to meet the basic needs of the population.

One Crimean internet outlet informed that the hotels on the peninsula call on their guests to save water.

And citizens of some areas already drink salty water. For example, according to the media Primechaniya, in Armiansk, which is located in northern Crimea. The local enterprise Krymskiy Tytan pumps groundwater for its own needs. Locals say that because of it, they have salty water at home.

“Local officials are afraid, so they keep silent about the problem. They will rather tell how everything is fine. In fact, the plant almost went bankrupt, but nobody is allowed to panic. Even a fool will understand that wells are not bottomless, using water from them for technical needs is wrong. Moreover, it can also be illegal. I think that it is necessary to build desalination plants, and it was necessary to start this process two years ago,”

says Oleksandra, one of the workers of the pumping enterprise.

She is also confident that closing the enterprise will not solve the problem because many citizens will be left unemployed, which is even worse.

However, the experts say that desalinating seawater might be too expensive.

The water situation is another catastrophe caused by the occupation of Crimea. The peninsula already faces a humanitarian crisis – the pro-Ukrainian population is persecuted, and the Crimean Tatars, the indigenous people of Crimea, are especially in danger. Crimea was dependent on Ukraine’s resources to a large extent and now it faces a shortage of them, the greatest example, after water, being electricity. As Russia is not able and has no intention to solve the water problem, exploiting the peninsula as a huge military base, an environmental disaster is more than possible in the nearest years. So far, economic sanctions by the EU and US have been the greatest instrument of pressure on Russia.


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  1. Avatar Steve says:

    Just like in a glass shop with the sign if you break it you bought it. So Russia you broke it, you bought it.

  2. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

    This is hardly surprising. The water problem was one of the reasons Stalin decided to transfer the Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR, though due to his death in March 1953 he could not implement the transfer himself.
    Stalin’s direct successor Malenkov and Khrushchev visited the Crimea in the summer of 1953 to see the problems for themselves. They came to the conclusion that Stalin was right and that the peninsula’s problems, incuding the water shortage, could best be dealt with by transferring the Crimea to the Ukrainian SSR. They reported accordingly to the Presidium, which gave its approval and Voroshilov as Head of State signed the decree concerning the transfer on 19/2/1954.
    It should be pointed out to the Savushkina trolls that apart from Malenkov and Khrushchev the Presidium included Molotov, Voroshilov, Bulganin, Kaganovich, Anastas Mikoyan and others. The story of a drunken Khrushchev transferring the Crimea on his own is a myth- he simply couldn’t have decided on his own, especially as Malenkov, as Prime Minister, was the person directly responsible.

    1. Avatar Screwdriver says:

      “The story of a drunken Khrushchev transferring the Crimea on his own is a myth- he simply couldn’t have decided on his own, especially as Malenkov, as Prime Minister, was the person directly responsible”
      It was still done in a violation of the USSR Constitution, chapter 18. “Территория союзных республик не может быть изменяема без их согласия.” They did not have a right to change territories of RSFSR (Russian socialist federation soviet republic) , without the formal approval by RSFSR.
      Looks like Vladimir Pozner can not visit Ukraine no more …http://pozneronline.ru/2015/01/10097/

      1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

        As LES1 pointed out above, the transfer WAS done according to the Soviet Constitution, old eunuch. As the Germans would say, “Alles hat seine Richtigkeit.”
        But legal or not, the fact remains that both Yeltsin and Pedo Putolini explicitly recognised the Crimea as Ukrainian in all the treaties they concluded and signed with Kyiv. The Crimea is Ukrainian territory, and this is not up for discussion. Dwarfstan will have to return it.

        1. Avatar Screwdriver says:

          They did not join Dagestan, you confused.

        2. Avatar Screwdriver says:

          pedo Putolini, is that a new train project for Agdale Pedo in Togo and British “Pendolino” ?

    2. Avatar LES1 says:

      As usual, “Screwdriver speaks with forked tongue.


      The earlier published documents, and materials that have emerged more recently, make clear that the transfer of Crimea from the RSFSR to the UkrSSR was carried out in accordance with the 1936 Soviet constitution, which in Article 18 stipulated that “the territory of a Union Republic may not be altered without its consent.”

      The proceedings of the USSR Supreme Soviet Presidium meeting indicate that both the RSFSR and the UkrSSR had given their consent via their republic parliaments.

      One of the officials present at the 19 February session, Otto Kuusinen, even boasted that “only in our country [the USSR] is it possible that issues of the utmost importance such as the territorial transfer of individual oblasts to a particular republic can be decided without any difficulties.” One might argue that the process in 1954 would have been a lot better if it had been complicated and difficult, but no matter how one judges the expeditiousness of the territorial reconfiguration, the main point to stress here is that it is incorrect to say (as some Russian commentators and government officials recently have) that Crimea was transferred unconstitutionally or illegally. The legal system in the Soviet Union was mostly a fiction, but the transfer did occur in accordance with the rules in effect at the time.

      Moreover, regardless of how the transfer was carried out, the Russian Federation expressly accepted Ukraine’s 1991 borders both in the December 1991 Belovezhskaya Pushcha accords (the agreements that precipitated and codified the dissolution of the Soviet Union) and in the December 1994 Budapest Memorandum that finalized Ukraine’s status as a non-nuclear weapons state.


      1. Avatar Scradje says:

        Excellent and informative comment.

        1. Avatar Sania says:

          crudje, ty oluch tsaria nebesnogo..

      2. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

        Thank you for the extra information- I didn’t know that the RSFSR and UkrSSR HAD given their formal approval. This further undermines the claims by the Savushkina trolls that the transfer was illegal. It would be interesting to know whether they had approved of the transfer of Belgorod, Taganrog and a large area of fertile land from the UkrSSR to the RSFSR in 1919-1922, by the way, though this transfer was before the 1936 Constitution.
        Furthermore, NOT ONE leading Soviet politician ever questioned the transfer- not Brezhnev, not Kosygin, not Podgorny, not Andropov, not Chernenko, not Gorbachev, not Gromyko, not Suslov etc etc.

        Apart from the 1991 BP Accords and the Budapest Memorandum both Yeltsin and Pedo Putolini repeatedly explicitly recognised the existing Ukrainian borders including the Crimea in various other treaties they signed with Kyiv such as the Russian-Ukrainian Friendship Treaty (some “Friendship”!) and the treaties concerning the use of Sevastopol by the Russian Black Sea Fleet.

        1. Avatar Scradje says:

          I used to think that in order to get pootlerstan off Krim, that an accommodation could be made as a goodwill gesture to allow them to keep their naval facilities at Sevastopol. That time has long since passed and not only must the occupier fascist scum be forced off all Ukraine, Georgia and Moldova territory forever, but the fulfillment of the bogus claim by the occupier that NATO wanted a base on Krim should actually be enacted. That is one of many ways that the kremlin murder gang could be punished.

          1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

            The dwarf himself annulled the Crimean bases treaty unilaterally shortly after the illegal invasion and annexation, so there can be no discussion of any Dwarfstanian forces remaining on Crimean soil. As far as I know the Verkhovna Rada hasn’t annulled it yet. This doesn’t mean much now, but doing so would drive the message home that as far as Kyiv is concerned ALL Dwarfstanian forces will have to leave when the Crimea is liberated- no ifs, ands, or buts.

            The Ukrainian Constitution actually forbids foreign troops being based on Ukrainian soil and this article would have to be altered for any NATO troops to be stationed anywhere in the country. When he was president Yushchenko made it clear that as far as he was concerned the treaty would not be extended when it expired in 2017, meaning that Dwarfstan would have had to vacate the Crimea- one more reason for the dwarf to support Proffessor Viktor Yanukovich in 2010, as Yulia didn’t want to extend the lease either. PV extended the lease for 25 years when he became president. The dwarf’s plans to seize the Crimea most probably date from the time when Yushchenko was president.

  3. Avatar veth says:

    That’s why tourism fell 90%, as well, no drinking water………….

  4. Avatar Screwdriver says:

    I wonder what would happen if Russia would shut down the upper Dniepro in the area of Bakharevka , Smolensk region.

    1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

      It would probably cause tremendous flooding around Khlystovka, Screwie. Didn’t think of that, did you?

      1. Avatar Screwdriver says:

        The need to make a reservoir first of course 🙂

        1. Avatar Mykola Potytorsky says:

          not you again? snoozers

        2. Avatar Микола Данчук says:

          Maybe you should go and show them how to do it.
          How many slaves would you need for the job?
          Only a Bolshevik can come up with a genius way to kill two birds with one stone – kill millions and accomplish nothing!

        3. Avatar Tony says:

          but russians cant even make a bridge lol.
          Hell, evidently russians dont even know what tributaries are so there’s no hope for you retards 🙂

          1. Avatar Screwdriver says:

            I will check back with you in a couple of years, once the Crimean bridge is up and running.

          2. Avatar veth says:

            It will be destroyed by Ukraine.

          3. Avatar focusser1 says:

            Geography and map reading are not a Russian strong points.

        4. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

          Dwarfstan can’t afford such a reservoir, Screwie…… it can’t even afford half-decent health care for its citizens. Or more correctly, it CAN afford half-decent health care, but the dwarf believes waging wars in Syria and the Donbas- which benefit nobody- far more important than the health of his compatriots.

          And who would build such a reservoir anyway? Let me guess: you will volunteer to work on it for nothing.

          1. Avatar Screwdriver says:

            Dagestan is very far from Smolensk, I was talking about Smolensk oblast. If they can afford the bridge and pensions for Crimeans, and money for Donbass, then they can afford a reservoir. Oil is going back up again. And it will pays off with a time, water will be sold later to Ukraine, bottled in a fancy bottles labeled in Ukrainian blue-yellow colors:. “Holy water of UPA/ Authentic Dnipro water”, ….will be later renamed by Ukrainian patriotic locals to “Bandera Cola”.

    2. Avatar Oknemfrod says:

      Except for possible ecological morass in the area of Smolensk and problems with water supply immediately downstream, nothing. Dniepers’ annual average flux near Smolensk is only about 30 m3/s compared to 1380 m3/s near Kyiv, i.e. about 2%. Thus, if you fancy that damming Dnieper near Smolensk can interrupt its flow in Ukraine (or even mid-stream in Belarus where the first major tributaries flow in), you need more than a screwdriver to fix what you know (or rather don’t know) about Dnieper and how its stream is formed.

  5. Avatar focusser1 says:

    No water, no electricity, no hope, no future. Say thankyou to Putin all you Russian sheep.

    1. Avatar veth says:

      2 Siemens engines in Crimea, but no knowledge what to do with it…………

      1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

        No to worry. Siemens will assist with the commissioning, knowing that Seehofer and Adolfina Merkel wil protect the company. Unfortunately for Siemens , they can’t protect the company beyond Germany’s borders.

        1. Avatar veth says:

          Siemens renews offer to buy back turbines from Russia, annul contract Siemens has announced it renewed its offer to buy back the equipment bought by Russia and sent to sanctions-bound Crimea, and to annul the original contract, according to its official statement regarding turbines to Crimea. Economy 10:57, 21 July 2017 100 READ LATER REUTERS “Siemens continues to pursue criminal charges against the responsible individuals at our customer, TPE, as well as legal actions that are intended to halt any other deliveries to Crimea and ensure that any equipment that has already been dispatched is returned to its original destination, Taman. Siemens also renewed its offer to buy back the equipment and annul the original contract,” it said in the statement. Siemens says it has received credible information that despite all recent and previous efforts all four gas turbines that were delivered in the summer of 2016 for the project in Taman, Southern Russia, have since been locally modified and illegally moved to Crimea against clear contractual agreements. Read also Reuters: Russia will struggle to turn on Siemens turbines in sanctions-bound Crimea “This development constitutes a blatant breach of Siemens’ delivery contracts, trust and EU regulations,” the statement said. In this regard, Siemens has announced it is taking four decisive steps. 1. Siemens will fully divest its minority interest in the Russian company Interautomatika, which offers products and services for power-plant instrumentation and control systems. 2. Siemens has initiated the termination process of a license agreement with Russian companies in the area of equipment supply for combined-cycle power stations. 3. Siemens will halt power generation equipment deliveries from existing contracts to state-controlled customers in Russia for the time being. During that time, Siemens is implementing an additional controls regime that is exceeding legal requirements by far. This new, permanent mechanism is designed to ensure that potential future deliveries only get dispatched once Siemens has confirmed that the equipment can be installed at the final and contractually-agreed destination. This will include Siemens controlled delivery and installation on the foundation by Siemens personnel. New business engagements in gas turbine power generation equipment in Russia will be solely executed by its majority-owned SGTT joint venture and its wholly-owned subsidiary, OOO Siemens, Moscow. All new engagements would be subject to the new, permanent control mechanism. Read also Russia’s FSB detains CEO of supplier of Siemens turbines to Crimea for “leaking state secrets” 4. In addition, the two employees representing Siemens on IA’s supervisory board will be exchanged or hold their office in abeyance, respectively, with immediate effect while Siemens conducts an investigation into the matter. “Based on the advanced state of ongoing investigations, Siemens has not uncovered any indications of possible violations of export control regulations. Nevertheless, Siemens will again take immediate and decisive action if it discovers any further indications of such activities,” the statement said.

          Read more on UNIAN: https://www.unian.info/economics/2040919-siemens-renews-offer-to-buy-back-turbines-from-russia-annul-contract.html

          1. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

            Clearly Siemens has started damage control, terrified it will be hit by EU and especially US sanctions. In the 1980s a Japanese company (Toshiba if my memory isn’t at fault) violated COCOM by supplying highly advanced propeller machining equipment to the USSR, thus enabling complex propeller shapes to be machined for Soviet submarines. US punitive sanctions hit the company very hard indeed and no doubt Siemens fears similar sanctions.
            It’s doubtful whether Siemens will be successful in its endeavours as it is totally dependent on Dwarfstanian government cooperation- which won’t be forthcoming. And if necessary the dwarf will simply order other Siemens plants in Dwarfstan to be cannibalised to get the Crimean turbines running.

      2. Avatar focusser1 says:

        If Siemens keep hold of the software, then these turbines will not run in a million years.

        1. Avatar veth says:

          Siemens has annuled the contract.

          1. Avatar focusser1 says:

            Yeah I posted the story on our disqus site. Too little too late, should never have got to this.

          2. Avatar veth says:

            The passenger flow to the territory of the temporarily occupied Crimea continues to decrease, the press service of the State Border Guard Service informs.

            It was noted that for June 2017, the administrative border in both directions was crossed by citizens less than in the same period last year by 13 percent, and vehicles – less by 21 percent.

          3. Avatar focusser1 says:

            Hotels in Crimea are telling customers not to use water. I can imagine all those stinking Russians sitting down to dinner.

  6. Avatar zorbatheturk says:

    Putin has a plan: recycling sewage for drinking water. Also, rain dances every Friday night. Bring your own partner, transgenders welkomm. Bottled Eau de Putin will also be sold in shops. This is pure Putin urine containing natural salts. It will be marketed as a premium hydration solution. Only the best will do for RuSSians.

  7. Avatar Dirk Smith says:

    Another reason third-world ruSSia will implode within the year. Greedy parasites.

  8. Avatar Dagwood Bumstead says:

    “Dwarfstan unable to supply the Crimea with water, dwarf may deliver ultimatum to Ukraine”:


    The dwarf is getting desperate……….