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7.11 Case studies (Topic k)

7.11.1 The Russian Federation

Like many other countries in transition, the Russian Federation faces many problems in the field of market oriented economy, efficient institutional and legal frameworks and financial transparency. Since the break-down of the former Soviet Union in the beginning of the 1990s, the decline in economic activity continues, partly due to political and legal uncertainties. The reduced economic activities have also an impact on the use and pollution of water resources.

Many water bodies in the country are highly affected by man-made pollution. To improve the situation, huge financial and material resources are necessary, which do not exist for the time being. To move the process along, a stepwise improvement of the water quality and priority setting for investments would be necessary. The existing water management system still lacks efficiency, which makes it difficult to improve water quality. Among the reasons are the very stringent standards, which are difficult to implement and enforce. These standards are valid for wastewater, which is discharged into the sewage network and discharged wastewater after treatment. The adaptation of the existing water law to more efficient standards used in European market economy countries would be the first step in this direction. At present, two main water laws are ruling water management in Russia. These are the so called “Water CodexEwhich lays down obligations regarding the use and protection of the water resources (adopted 18 October 1995) and the law regarding the protection of surface water against pollution (adopted in 1991).

Freshwater quality

Despite all efforts, the overall water quality of freshwaters has improved little during the last decade. Nevertheless, the discharge of wastewater into water bodies was reduced by approximately 30%, from 76.4 to 55.7 km3/year. The amount of polluting substances in wastewater also decreased, for several parameters even up to 50 %. According to the State Water Inventory, substances most often exceeding the maximum allowable concentrations in discharged wastewater are:

  • Nitrate- ammonium (N-NH4) in the basins of the rivers Volga, Terek, Amur, Western Dvina and Lake Baikal,
  • Copper in the basins of the rivers Ob, Kuban and Neva,
  • Phenols in the river basins of Yenisej, and Western Dvina,
  • Phosphorous in the basins of the river Don, Ural, and Dnjepr,
  • Oil products, organic substances, nitrite, iron, zinc and manganese in the rivers mentioned above.

In 1998, the most polluted river basins were those of the rivers Neva and Western Dvina, followed by the Volga, the Northern Dvina and the Lena river (see figure 7.5a and 7.5b). Not included in these statistics are estimates about non-point sources of pollution, like impact on water quality from agricultural activities, urban run-off, transport and others. Furthermore, in the given statistics no accidental water pollution is included, or diffuse irrigation water. In 1998, the amount of water used for irrigation was 7.3 km3, of which more than 50% was used in the river basins of Kuban, Terek and Don. A large part of this irrigation water is polluted by toxic chemicals as well as nitrogen and phosphorus from fertilisers. The exclusion of the polluted irrigation water from statistics leads to a distortion of the amount of discharged polluted wastewater in the mentioned river basins.

Figure 7.5a: Pollution degree of the 14 main river basins in the Russian Federation (1998)

Pollution sources

Insufficient or not treated wastewater is a serious pollution source for natural water bodies. According to data of the State Water Inventory (table 7.11), 22 km3 of such wastewater (12.3% of all discharged wastewater) was discharged in 1998 into surface water.

Another pollution source is the diffuse input of polluted water from settlements without sewage network, from streets and related traffic, from sealed surfaces in enterprises and from areas with agricultural activities. Diffuse sources of pollution generally contribute more than 50% to the total pollution of water bodies (Zhmur, 1999). More specifically, the share of various substances is as follows: 60-80% nitrogen, up to 80% pesticides, 70% oil products, 80%suspended matters and 20% organic substances.

A further strong pollution source is sewage sludge, produced by wastewater treatment plants. In Russia, the annual mean amount of sludge production is about 80 million m3 (with a humidity of 96-97%), which equals an amount of dry substance of about 3 million t/year.

Reuse, composting or incineration of sludge is not common. The sludge contains a high amount of metals and other hazardous substances. Thus, its treatment becomes very expensive. Almost all sludge from treatment plants is untreated and disposed off on land on sludge fields. Because of the size of the country, there is enough space for new sludge fields. According to the law, closed or used sludge fields have to be regularly monitored, which is however not always done under the present economic conditions. During rainfall and snow melt, the sludge may be washed away and can adversely impact unpolluted areas.

Number and names of the river basins in Russia:
1. Volga
2. Kuban
3. Ob
4. Don
5. Terek
6. Yeniseji
7. Ural
8. Neva
9. Amur
10. Lake Baikal
11. Northern Dvina
12. Dnepr
13. Lena
14. Western Dvina
The pollution degree was calculated as relation between the mean of the concentrations of 6 pollutants in wastewater and the maximum allowable concentrations of water standards for fishery. The 6 pollutants are: organic matter, N-NH4, Fe, P total, nitrogen and oil products.

Figure 7.5b: Pollution degree of the 14 main river basins in the Russian Federation (1998)

Monitoring and control of water resources

Monitoring and control of water resources is carried out by different State agencies at all administrative levels (federal, regional, local levels).

Monitoring of surface waters, for example, is carried out under the auspices of the Ministry of Natural Resources and the Federal Service of Hydrometeorology and Monitoring of the Environment (the latter entity only for marine and surface water monitoring), together with other State agencies responsible for environmental protection. The geological division of the Ministry of Natural Resources is mainly responsible for groundwater monitoring. Other State agencies dealing with water monitoring are the State Committee on Environmental Protection (man-made impact on waters), the State Committee on Fishery (aquatic life protection) and Ministry of Health (drinking water, mineral water and recreational waters). The monitoring on surface waters is carried out on the federal, regional (according to river basins), territorial and local level jointly with all the relevant administrations on each level.

The control of water resources is carried out by executive agencies of the regions, by the Ministry of Natural Resources, by specialised State agencies for environmental protection and other relevant agencies. Under the auspices of the above Ministry, three different entities are responsible for water control including the State control of the use and protection of water bodies being part of the Ministry; the State control unit of the territories (in the frame of river basins); and the State control units in the frame of the 89 regions in the Russian Federation. The Senior staff of these bodies act at the same time as inspectors for their area of responsibility. There are 289 water control inspectorates, equipped with their own laboratories. Usually, they take samples twice a year as far as 500m downstream of effluent discharge points, depending on the volume of the wastewater discharge.

Responsibility for the control and protection of ground water is jointly shared by the State control agency for the use and protection of water bodies and the State geological control agency (both belonging to the Ministry of Natural Resources), and the State control for sanitation and epidemiology of the Ministry of Health.

The State inspectors are entitled to control water users at any time, to give orders to these water users, and to control the implementation of given orders. Moreover, they have the power to cancel the water use licence, and in the worst case to close down enterprises or entities which do not respect the laws.

Water quality standards

In Russia, several water quality standards exist which apply to various uses of the water body. The most stringent water quality standards are those for fisheries. Almost all wastewater discharged into water bodies has to correspond to water quality standards for fisheries, which are stricter than those for human consumption. For example, all discharged wastewater should by law not exceed BOD20 of 3 mg/l, NH4 ammonium 0.39mg/l, oil products 0.05 mg/l and Phosphate 0.15 mg/l.

These standards for fisheries are also valid for industrial wastewater discharged into municipal sewage systems. Industrial enterprises have to ensure the quality of their wastewater meets the water standards of the fishery before being discharged into the municipal system. To do so, these enterprises have to spend a huge amount of money on their pre-treatment systems to make improvements regarding construction and level of technology of their systems. Furthermore, enterprises have to pay fines for exceeding water quality standards, which are not adapted to the existing economic situation (inflation, costs and prices etc.).

Sewage network

By law, all newly built houses or enterprises have to be connected to a sewage system. Most towns are equipped with centralised sewage networks, so the implementation of this obligation is not a problem. Villages mostly do not have networks, the people discharge their grey-water into nature and the black water into pits. Industrial and agricultural enterprises must have pre-treatment facilities by law, before discharging into municipal sewage networks or into surface waters. The operation and efficiency of such pre-treatment facilities always depends on the financial capacities of the enterprise.

Currently, the extension or construction of a sewage network in a settlement depends mostly on the financial resources and the priority setting of the local government and not primarily on the size of the population, or the amount and concentration of the wastewater. Only the Sanitation-Epidemiological Inspection of the Ministry of Health has the power to order the construction or extension of a sewage network as well as the connection of enterprises or settlements to an existing one.


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