News Feature | August 4, 2014

Ukraine-Russia Conflict Results In "Water War"

Sara Jerome

By Sara Jerome,

Water utilities have been at the center of international political unrest this year as a result of the "water war" in Crimea. 

"Crimeans voted to break off from Ukraine and join Russia. Their vote represents the re-establishment of a historic cultural relationship. But take away the emotional side of the Crimean referendum and reality hits home -- the economic challenges that are yet to knock on their door," CNN reported.

Water service is among the major challenges. 

"According to Ukrainian news agencies, [Ukraine's government] has shut down the work of the North Crimean Canal which carried water from the Dnepr to Crimea. The peninsula got 85 percent of fresh water from this canal, which was built in [between] 1961 and 1971," ITAR TASS reported. 

That creates an expensive issue for Crimea, and for Russia, its new homeland. It will take up to $417 million to solve the problem of water service for Crimea, the report said. 

The water problem emerged as a central front in the tug-of-war between Ukraine and Russia over Crimea. 

"Satellite images show that [Ukraine] is deliberately trying to cut off Crimea peninsula's water supply by building a dam. In the meantime Russian scientists are trying to find ways to supply Crimea with fresh water," RT reported

The result is an all-out "water war."

"Amid the water war between Ukraine and Russia; the former and the current occupiers of the Muslim Autonomous Republic of Crimea, harvest in the devastated Muslim country has been despoiled, but the water war may take more victims, with two major Crimean chemical plants near closure because of a water shortage," OnIslam reported, citing a Crimean official. 

Crimea formerly depended on Ukraine for water, Pravda reported this month. 

Ukraine "provided up to 85 percent of fresh water supplies to the Crimea through the North Crimean Canal from the Dnieper River. The water was used to irrigate farmland. However, after the reunification of the Crimea with Russia, the new authorities of Ukraine completely cut water supplies from the North Crimean Canal to the republic," the report said. 

Russia is trying to solve the water problem. 

"The Defense Ministry of the Russian Federation delivers fresh drinking water to the Crimea from artesian wells," the report said. 

"Experts from the Russian Ministry of Natural Resources are developing ways to supply fresh water to the Crimea from the Kuban River in the Krasnodar region to the North Crimean Canal which now receives limited water-flow, as Kiev tightens the lid," RT reported. 

Russian official Dmitry Kirillov told reporters that the country is exploring its options. 

“As one of options of providing the peninsula with water, we are considering an option of drawing water supply from the Kuban River and channeling it through the Strait of Kerch to the end portion of North Crimean Canal,” he said, per RT.

Desalination has also been viewed as a potential solution. 

"Russia is debating the construction of desalination plants in Crimea to solve the peninsula’s water supply problem," RIONOVOSTI reported, citing a Russian official. 

"[New] desalination technology and desalination plants could be used in Crimea, because there are many underground salt lakes on the peninsula. Singapore uses desalinized water for irrigation and for technical purposes; the same can be done in Crimea," a Russian official said.