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The Partizanskoe Reservoir, built for Simferopol’s water supply

Reservoir gods Russian officials in Simferopol announced a water shortage and prayed for rain, but now they’re saying everything’s fine

Source: Meduza
The Partizanskoe Reservoir, built for Simferopol’s water supply
The Partizanskoe Reservoir, built for Simferopol’s water supply
Sergey Malgavko / TASS / Vida Press

On February 5, officials in Simferopol, Crimea, announced plans to limit the supply of hot and cold water to local private residences and apartment buildings because of the city reservoirs' low reserves. Igor Vail, the head of Crimea’s State Committee for Water Management and Land Reclamation, said in a statement that Simferopol’s water would run out in 90-100 days if it didn’t start rationing its supply. Later that same day, however, Crimea's authorities walked back their remarks and said there is no need to limit the water supply. Simferopol’s current reserves will apparently last until the summer at least.

Since 2014, as stated by Russia’s Defense Ministry, the Crimean peninsula has experienced fresh-water shortages due to Ukraine’s refusal to supply water from the Dnieper River through the North Crimean Canal.

Until April 2014, before Russia annexed the territory, Crimea got as much as 85 percent of its water through the North Crimea Canal. According to the news agency RIA Novosti, Russian officials solved the water supply problem in eastern Crimea by drilling new artesian wells and transferring water from the Biyuk-Karasu River to the North Crimean Canal. 

In November 2019, meteorologists warned TASS that there’d been no heavy rainfall in Crimea during the fall, which dried up several small rivers in the eastern part of the peninsula.

Elena Protsenko, the head of Simferopol’s city administration, wrote on Facebook that cold water would be supplied to homes in the mornings and evenings according to a schedule starting on February 10, and hot water would be available only on the weekends. Specifically, city officials said the active water supply would be limited to eight hours a day, from 6 to 10 a.m. and 6 to 10 p.m. The restrictions would not have applied to the city’s Old Town, Central District, the Regional Hydroelectric Power Plant District, or hospitals, schools, kindergartens, and other vital facilities. 

To solve the water shortage, Protsenko said city officials would rely on rainfall and divine intervention. “We need rain mainly. It’s very important. We’re hoping, of course, for snow and rain and God’s help,” she wrote on Facebook. The local Russian Orthodox clergy also held prayers asking for rain. “We started last week. Worship services have been organized in all the churches. We’ve also consecrated the reservoirs,” said a diocese spokesperson. 

At a meeting on February 5, Igor Vail, the head of Crimea’s State Committee for Water Management and Land Reclamation, cited calculations stating that Simferopol’s water would run out in 90-100 days without rationing. Afterward, however, Vail wrote on Facebook that the city reservoir’s current reserves won’t run out until June 1. Meduza reviewed the data Vail presented originally and confirmed that the reservoir could last another 123 days, until early June. Due to water losses in the water supply systems, however, Simferopol’s reserves could also run out as soon as a month and a half from now.

According to Igor Vail’s numbers, the people of Simferopol consume between 140,000 and 150,000 cubic meters (about 38.3 million gallons) of water each day. The three reservoirs feeding the city currently have reserves of 24.7 million cubic meters (6.5 billion gallons) of water, which is half as much as they did last year. Only 17.3 million cubic meters (4.6 billion gallons) of this supply is actually useable. 

At a consumption rate of 140,000 cubic meters per day, the supply would run out in 123 days. Raise that rate to 150,000 cubic meters, and the reserves last only 115 days.

Additionally, when meeting with city officials, Igor Vail also stated that Simferopol uses only 38 percent of the water reserves from its reservoirs, while most of the water is lost in water supply systems. Factoring in these losses, the city’s supply would only last another 43-47 days, he concluded.

Igor Vail emphasized that the water supply wouldn’t be shut off on June 1 because the reservoirs continue to be refilled. “There is no emergency regarding the filling of the reservoirs at this time,” he explained, calling it a standard situation when reservoirs experience low levels “in a dry year.”

On the evening of February 5, Crimean Prime Minister Yuri Gotsanyuk announced on Facebook that there would be no restrictions on the water supply in Simferopol. Gotsanyuk said the city’s reservoirs received 732,000 cubic meters (193.4 million gallons) of water that night — 140,000 cubic meters (37 million gallons) more than in all of January. According to the prime minister’s calculations, Simferopol’s three reservoirs are now between 32- and 34-percent full. Gotsanyuk acknowledged that disruptions to the water supply are still possible, but he promised to institute such a policy with advance notice and only when “urgently necessary.” He also urged the people of Crimea to conserve their water use when possible.

On February 6, Igor Vail reported that Simferopol’s reservoirs had received more than 1.5 million cubic meters (396.2 million gallons) of water over the previous two days, getting twice the amount of water added in the month of January. Vail did not explain how the supply jumped so dramatically. According to weather reports, the Simferopol region received just eight millimeters (0.3 inches) of rain between February 4 and 6.

Based on data from Crimea’s State Committee for Water Management, the peninsula’s total water reserves comprise 132 million cubic meters (34.9 billion gallons). Igor Vail says this should last the rest of the cold-weather season and into the start of Crimea’s tourist season, which officially begins on May 1.

Story by Alexander Baklanov

Translation by Kevin Rothrock

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