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<International Source Book On Environmentally Sound Technologies
for Wastewater and Stormwater Management>

Water use and wastewater discharge

In 1998 the volume of wastewater discharged into surface water was reduced by 3.5 km3 as compared to 1997 (Table 7.11). This reduction was the result of a reduced use of water for irrigation and for industrial production, because of the further close down of industrial and agricultural enterprises. In 1998, only 13.7% (2.5 km3) of the produced wastewater, which requires treatment, was treated according to the standards. The reasons were overloading and low efficiency of the operating wastewater treatment plants (State Water Inventory, 04/1999).

Table 7.11: Water use and wastewater discharge of the Russian Federation in 1997 and 1998 (million m3)

Parameter 1997 1998 % to 1997
Water use      
Number of water users (enterprises) 53970 53504 99
Total water use 70176 66192 94
Municipal drinking-water use 13602 13697 101
Industrial use 38437 37027 96
Irrigation 9063 8979 99
Agricultural use 2911 2169 75
Other water use 6110 4170 68
Wastewater discharge      
Total wastewater discharge 71662 71226 99
Wastewater discharge into surface waters 59277 55753 94
Of which: polluted water 23043 21985 96
Of which: without any treatment 6813 6175 91
Insufficient treatment 16231 15838 98
Wastewater, which do not need any treatment 33625 31218 93
Treated according to the standards 2609 2522 97
Of which biological treated 2100 2000 95
Capacity of treatment plants 31275 30705 98
Source: Information bulletin of the State Water Inventory, No. 01/99 of the Ministry of Natural Resources

Data on water abstraction and wastewater discharge are also available for all 89 administrative regions of the Russian Federation.

The characteristics of wastewater in 1998 for the Russian Federation are shown in table 7.12. Data were taken from the information bulletin of the State Water Inventory, No. 04/99.

Table 7.12: Wastewater characteristic for 1997 and 1998 of the Russian Federation (1000 t)

Parameter 1997 1998
BOD 401.5 374
Oil products 7.8 6.3
Suspended solids - 608
P total 31 30.1
Nitrate-ammonium 97 90
Nitrite 6.7 7.0
Phenol 0.06 0.06
Surface-active synthetic substances - 3.3
Iron 19.6 12
Manganese 0.6 0.7
Copper 0.21 0.16
Zinc 0.68 0.56

In 1998, 39% (21,985 km3) of all wastewater, discharged into surface water, was polluted. Of these polluted wastewater 31% came from industry and 55% from municipalities. In industry the largest amount of wastewater is produced by the energy and heating sector, the chemical and oil producing industry, the paper industry and black metallurgy.

In general, since 1990 the volume of discharged wastewater decreased (see Figure 7.6). Only in some economic sectors an increase of polluted wastewater occurred which is linked to the fact that wastewater which was not treated in the past now belongs to a wastewater category which is subject to treatment.

Figure 7.6: Overview of the discharge of wastewater in the Russian Federation for 1990-1998

Source: State Water Inventory, No. 03/99 of the Ministry of Natural Resources.


In Russia, in 1998, 55.7 km3 of wastewater (including water from mines and irrigation) was discharged into surface water. Out of this amount, about 33% (18.3 km3) received treatment. Out of this 33% treated wastewater, only 13.7% was treated according to the standards, i.e. by biological treatment (State Water Inventory, 04/1999). Furthermore, most of the Russian municipal wastewater treatment plants were built 20-30 years ago. The aim was to achieve BOD and SM values of 10-15 mg/l in wastewater. During biological treatment, the content of heavy metals is reduced by about 40-80%, for oil pollution about 20-80%, for surface active synthetic substances up to 50%, for N-NH4 and phosphorus by 25-30% etc. At present, the efficiency of the treatment plants is however not always satisfactory because of overloading, difficulties in maintenance and reconstruction, etc. Thus, the projected treatment level can not always be reached (Zhmur, 1999).

Quite often, the biological treatment already includes some nitrogen and phosphorous removal, as well as the removal of oil products. In the tertiary treatment, after filtering, the BOD20 will be reduced from 15-20mg/l to 6-8 mg/l, which is still higher than the 3mg/l demanded by law for discharge into surface water. In smaller rural settlements more and more compact pre-build treatment facilities are used.

As it was already the case in the former USSR, industrial enterprises are obliged by law to build pre-treatment facilities. Whether these pre-treatment facilities are used depends mostly on the financial situation of the enterprise. There is a lot of research to improve treatment processes, but the practical implementation of R&D results is still to costly. In previous times, there was a trend to centralise wastewater treatment and build a large treatment plant per region. Today, wastewater treatment will be decentralised, depending on the main sources of pollution and on the degree of pollution. A growing problem is the oil pollution in cities as well as in areas where the oil is withdrawn.

Storm-water management

Only a few big cities in Russia have separate rainwater systems. St. Petersburg is equipped with a combined system, but in newly built areas a separate system has been introduced. In other Russian cities, separate systems are only available in smaller parts of the city area. As a general rule, storm-water receives only mechanical treatment. In some cases oil products are taken out by membrane filtration.


Treated wastewater is not reused, neither for irrigation, gardens, parks etc. In the summer month, some grey-water of rural households is used for irrigation of gardens and green areas around holiday homes. For the time being, freshwater is less expensive than treated wastewater, so people mostly use freshwater for gardens, parks and sport areas.

Sludge is not yet reused or incinerated, but there are some pilot projects running. Only a small amount is used in forestry as fertiliser. Human excreta is disposed on land, sometimes staying in the pit, which will be closed down. Animal excrement is sometimes used as fertiliser on fields, depending on the transport capacity of the agricultural enterprise. Chemical fertilisers were in the past always available being less expensive and having a better storage capacity. Now most of the former large agricultural enterprises (kolchos) do not exist anymore. Private enterprises often do not have the transport capacity to carry the composted sludge to remote fields. Disposal fields and the distribution as fertiliser in rural areas are often not controlled.

The use of cooling water has also declined during the last years. It is mostly used in closed cycles and only 10-15% of the cooling water is being discharged. The high salt content of this water requires treatment by law. Treated cooling water is often reused as cooling water or for the irrigation of nearby gardens and holiday homes.


The-polluter-pays-principle is used in Russia. Because of the high fees and penalties for exceeding the water quality standards, most of the resources were invested into industrial pre-treatment (tertiary treatment) of wastewater. Before a pre-treatment facility is approved by the administration, it has to be projected in such a way that it achieves the stringent water quality standards. In practice, however, these standards will rarely be achieved by pre-treatment facilities.

Most enterprises get exceptional contracts which are limited in time within which they are allowed to exceed the pollution standards to a certain extent for selected parameters. If the enterprises does not comply with the contact conditions, they have to pay penalties to the Ecological Funds, of which 50% goes to the Federal and 50% to the Regional Ecological Fund. These funds are one financial basis for modernisation and construction of new municipal treatment plants. An appropriate financial stimulation for enterprises to improve technology and install environmentally- friendly technology is lacking. An attempt to switch gradually to international standards for Water Quality, like those of the European Union, would also encourage foreign and national investors to strengthen the economy in the country.

Furthermore, enterprises have to pay for water abstraction and wastewater treatment to the responsible State enterprise Vodokanal. The price depends on the region and the river basin where the enterprise is situated. For water abstraction, the costs are between 39 - 104 Rubels/1000m3 and for wastewater discharges between 4,5 - 17.7 Rubels/1000m3.

The urban and rural population has to pay for centralised drinking water supply (cold and warm water), heating and wastewater collection/treatment. Prices differ throughout the country and can be up to 30% of the apartment rent. Until now these expenses for centralised services show little impact on the drinking water demand for households, which is still slightly increasing. In rural areas with decentralised systems (water abstraction from wells) people pay for freshwater abstraction and energy. Not all households are able or willing to pay for these services.

To further stimulate the rational water use, a new reform was introduced in 1999. The expenses for water and heating for the population will further increase (depending on capita/family income) and the expenses for enterprises will decrease to encourage economic growth. Today about 80% of the Russian population pays for water and heating. To increase that percentage and to make payments more reliable, water-meters will be stepwise introduced. At present, water-meters exist mostly one per house and every household pays an average. In some buildings the upper floors do not always get water due to a lack of water pressure. To stimulate the rational use of water per household, every apartment will get its own water-meter in the future. First this will be implemented for Moscow and some other industrial centres.


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