ULAN-UDE, March 24. /TASS/. The water level in Lake Baikal has dropped by one more centimeter to the point of 455.93 meters, which is seven centimeters below the critical point. The water level was last measured on Monday, a source from the Ministry of natural resources of Buryatia (south Siberia) told TASS on Tuesday.
The lake has been shrinking since February 25 when it first lost one centimeter; another one was lost by February 27. By March 5 the water level had measured 455.97 meters; by March 10 it had lowered to the point of 455.96 meters and had been steadily going down since, showing 455.95 meters on March 12 and 455.94 meters on March 17.
Baikal has been showing the downward tendency since last autumn; one of the reasons is the lack of precipitation, experts said. Besides, problems arose during water collecting in the lower reserve of the Irkutsk hydropower block, from which water has been supplied to the cities of Angarsk, Usolye-Sibirskoye, and Cheremkhovo. To solve the problem the Russian government gave permission on February 4 to let Baikal water drop below the earlier established permissible point. Experts expect the lake to regain its previous size by the end of April or early June when ice melting is complete.
Because of the shrinking lake the related services have been put an alert on a territory east of the lake. Dmitry Kirillov, department chief of the Russian Ministry for natural resources in charge of water resource regulating politics, said that a process of the lake's regaining the normal size would begin in the second half of April, citing Roshydromet's (Federal Service for Hydrometeorology) estimates.
Following a spell of dry weather and because of a threat posed to water supply to the city of Angarsk the Russian government allowed more extensive use of the lake water temporarily, envisaging a drop in the water level 20 centimeters down below the earlier established point of 456 meters. Around a thousand residents in eight settlements of the Pribaikal and Barguzinsky regions of Buryatia have been suffering from water supply shortages, a source from the regional ministry said.