SIMFEROPOL, September 11. /ITAR-TASS/. Russia’s federal government has provided over $53 million to supply water to Crimea, its Environment Minister Gennady Narayev said on Thursday.
The money will be used to finance the drilling of water wells and the construction of new water intakes and a water pipeline, he said.
Narayev said the republic was not expecting the resumption of water supply from Ukraine.
On April 26, Ukraine stopped supplying water to Crimea from the Dnepr via the North Crimean Canal, which had previously met 85% of its water needs. As a result, practically all rice plantations on the peninsula perished. Damage is estimated at $6.69 million.
“Crimea would like the North Crimean Canal to operate. This has been stated at all levels. But that the Kiev authorities have blocked water supply completely is a fact of life. We have to think about how to supply Crimea with water,” Narayev said.
Crimean State Council (parliament) Chairman Vladimir Konstantinov urged local agricultural producers to think about thrifty use of water and said they might need to give up crops that require irrigation.
“They can give up crops that consume a lot of water, such as rice which is produced in large volumes in the Krasnodar Territory,” he said.
Konstantinov said the Crimean authorities would help and support companies that had introduced thrifty water use technologies.
He believes that effective use of water should be on the agenda irrespective of whether there is water in the North Crimean Canal or not. “What I am afraid of is that water will start flowing again and everyone will relax, say ‘Let it leak out’ and forget the problem. But I think it’s high time we started talking about effective use of water,” he said.
He described Ukraine’s decision to stop the supply of water through the North Crimean Canal as a political move.
Crimea will switch over to a rational water use practice, which means building new water conduits, reservoirs and wells, within a year, Crimean Minister of Regional Development, Housing and Utilities Sergei Glebov said.
“It will take time to adopt a rational water use system, which presupposes the construction of new water pipelines. It will take about a year for the system to become operational,” he said.
He noted that large-scale construction would not affect water supply to people and farms in Crimea.
“Crimea will be able to meet the demand for drinking water from its own sources by the end of May of next year,” he said, adding that water for household purposes would be supplied continuously by the previous system.
Glebov said that a dam in the North Crimean Canal could not do any damage to the peninsula but would adversely affect the environment in Ukraine’s Kherson region and the Black Sea.
“Technically, I do not understand what kind of a dam they are going to build, but they can’t do any harm to Crimea. They have already done all the harm they could. So, it’s not quite clear who is going to be affected more,” he said.
The minister said that the North Crimean Canal, built mainly for agricultural purposes, had been upsetting the water balance in Crimea. “The North Crimean Canal, on one hand, is useful, but on the other hand it’s harmful because water is seeping through into the soil, goes through the upper layers of salty water and, having become salty itself, gets into deeper layers containing clean artesian water which gets mineralised and basically loses its original quality,” Glebov said.
Crimea has scarce water resources and is one of the most water-deficient parts of Europe. Its eastern regions from Sudak to Kerch have virtually no surface sources of water. Crimea is 82% dependent on external water supplies via the North Crimean Canal that links the Dnepr and the peninsula.
More than two-thirds of all water (600-700 million cubic meters) is used for agricultural purposes and the rest is kept in eight water reservoirs, three of which are now the only source of drinking water in Kerch, the Leninsky District of Crimea, and the cities of Feodosia and Sudak.