World Water Day is celebrated on March 22. The theme for World Water Day 2021 is “Valuing Water”. In the context of celebration of this important day, we intend to make an evaluation of the activities we have done so far, the problems we face, the vulnerabilities we are exposed to and the solutions we can propose and implement in order to improve our water resources. The problems related to water are many, they are complex, but the continuous ignorance from society, from everyone, leads to serious consequences for both the environment and human civilization.
Water occupies more than 70% of the planet surface. The largest water volumes are concentrated in the oceans, which are also home to billions of organisms. However, drinking water resources on Earth are extremely limited. Only 2.5% of the existing water volume is fresh and accumulates in rivers, lakes, groundwater and glaciers. It should be noted that only 0.02% of water is concentrated in rivers and lakes - the main water resources for society. Thus, even if the volume of water on the planet is enormous, drinking water resources are characterized by very small quantities. Globally, the World Ocean assures the natural balance of the Earth, represents the source of food, raw materials, and energy for the Earth's population. Since ancient times, oceans have served as ways of transportation and communication. The seas and oceans shores are the main recreation area for humans. The vast majority of large cities are located close to the coasts.
For the Republic of Moldova, water resources are represented by surface waters: rivers and reservoirs as well as by groundwater. The most important volumes of water are provided by the Dniester River - the transboundary river, which accumulates its waters in the Carpathians, flows through Ukraine and crosses the territory of the Republic of Moldova.
What does the Dniester River mean for us? The Dniester is the main river artery of our country, the main water resource, the main recreation area. 57.6% or 19.2 ths. km2 of the territory of the Republic of Moldova belongs to the Dniester River basin. Total water resources are resumed to approx. 9.6 km3. In the limits of the country, the length of the river is approx. 490 km, to which the 142.5 km are added being the border between the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine. The main tributaries are the Raut, Bic, and Botna. Their water resources are small and have little economic value.
The water resources of the Dniester River basin are used for various purposes like domestic, industrial, agricultural, including irrigation use. On average, the volume of water abstracted from the basin is 700-800 mil. m3, and these values have generally remained unchanged over the past two decades.
Ecosystems and their evolution in time and space represent a particular importance for the sustainable development of the river basin. Unfortunately, the share of forests is only 11%, with the largest forests areas located in regions with rugged terrain, such as the Codru Plateau and the Dniester Plateau. Small shares, 12%, are also occupied by grassland (pastures, meadows). Wetland ecosystems are located only in the Dniester river floodplain. Wetlands are home to a large number of rare or endangered species of plants and animals, those included in the Red Book of the Republic of Moldova.
The Dniester river, natural ecosystems as well as society face many problems and challenges. A significant impact is caused by the construction and operation of the Dniester hydropower complex located on the border between Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova, as well as the Dubasari dam. The operation of the Dniester hydropower complex (HPC) causes not only hydromorphological, but also hydrological changes. The effect of the fluctuating discharges evacuated from the HPP-2 dam of HPC (hydropeaking) is felt throughout the entire transboundary river section. Thus, 20% of the river length, situated in the limits of the country, is affected by this phenomenon. In addition, the river sector is also affected by fluctuations of water temperature (termopeaking), caused by the flow evacuated from the bottom part of the main reservoir of the HPC. Thus, the water temperature, in the warm season, is below normal, and in the cold one - it is higher than normal. The effect, caused by HPC, is expressed by limitation of suspended solids flow, which increases the water transparency downstream of the complex. As a result of a large number of turbines operation, the water evacuated to the downstream loses its quality characteristics and becomes, practically, technical water. Those mentioned above cause a significant impact on biodiversity and cause a significant reduction in recreational capacity, as well as other ecosystem services in the Dniester river basin.
A significant impact on the environment of the Dniester river basin is caused by massive water pollution. The main sources are the point - settlements, industrial enterprises, etc. - as well as those diffuse - surface runoff from arable territories. Poor operation of water treatment plants and wastewater from settlements with lack of such facilities increase the degree of pollution of small, medium and large rivers and, as a result, affects the biodiversity and self-purification capacity of the river. The quality class of the most part of the rivers in the basin is 5 - highly polluted water. Even the water of the Dniester falls within the limits of the 2nd and 3rd quality classes, being moderately polluted water, and according to microbiological indicators, it is often highly polluted (classes 4 and 5). Disruption of the normal functioning of the river ecosystem and its limnization, i.e. the transformation of river into a network of reservoirs, is a phenomenon leading to the loss of ecosystem services by the river, which it previously provided (fish, recreation, etc.)
Climate change, intensification of hydrometeorological hazards, flash floods, river floods, droughts, desertification are important phenomena that significantly affect both natural ecosystems and human activities and, in particular, the population. As a result of their impact, the need for water increases, in conditions of sharp water resources reduction, thus, the vulnerability of the economy to these phenomena is higher.
One of the basic elements related to the management of the Dniester river basin at transboundary level is the Moldovan-Ukrainian Commission on Sustainable Use and Protection of the Dniester River (Dniester Commission).
As members of Working Group on the Dniester river basin Planning and Management of the Dniester Commission, we come with a message to raise the awareness of civil society about those issues that are faced by the country's main river and a call to take urgent measures, regardless job, salary, age, occupation, place of residence in order to improve the state of the basin.
Within the activities of the working group, in collaboration with the team from Ukraine, a total of 10 people, we are concerned with a large set of issues, including the development and implementation of the Dniester River management plan for both sectors: both in Moldova and in Ukraine, development of proposals regarding the spring ecological flood to be evacuated from the reservoirs of the Dniester Hydropower Complex to ensure the development of ecosystems but, especially, of fish in the middle and lower course of the Dniester River, development of recommendations to improve the Regulation of the Dniester Hydropower Complex Operation, development of the Geoinformation System and the Atlas of the Dniester river basin, assessment of the hydrological and hydromorphological state of the river, mutual information about the activities of Basin Committees, joint participation in various events related to water and the Dniester river.
In the Republic of Moldova, the Management Plan was approved in 2017 for a period of 6 years, so that in the following years it is necessary to evaluate those actions that have been completed and to develop the next cycle for another 6 years. The essential element of the Management Plan is the program of measures. In the first cycle of the plan, this program focuses on improving the legal, informational framework in the field of water but also on increasing capacity and public awareness and information on water status, as well as on the protection and restoration of natural ecosystems, prevention and progressive reduction of surface and groundwater pollution. A large part of the measures has been implemented, other measures are in the process of realization, but another set of measures requires funds but also more time to be accomplished.
Recently, the Strategic Action Program for the entire Dniester river basin for the period 2021-2035 has been developed and is under finalization. This document aims to strengthen the cross-border cooperation between Moldova and Ukraine by drawing up strategic directions, specific objectives, measures and actions in order to improve the water status of the Dniester river basin. The strategic directions refer to
1. Reduction of water pollution from point and diffuse sources, as well as plastic pollution; management of tailings storage facilities and prevention of accidental pollution,
2. Improvement of the hydromorphological status of surface water bodies,
3. Protection and prevention of surface and ground water degradation,
4. Mitigation of climate change and natural disasters,
5. Improvement of the legal and regulatory framework and mechanisms for its implementation,
6. Strengthening Moldovan-Ukrainian cooperation in the field of water resources management,
7. Promotion of rational use of water resources.
In this context, a massive platform for Moldovan-Ukrainian collaboration on various themes, aspects and directions is being formed. Governmental and non-governmental organizations, scientific institutions, associations, universities, civil society and anyone who considers the protection of water resources important can participate in the implementation of the set of measures. Respectively, we call both parties to collaborate effectively in the field of water.
During the last meeting of the Working Group, a model for the analysis of the hydrological situation within the entire Dniester river basin was developed and accepted by both parties. An assessment has been made in this regard. The drought periods were analyzed, as well as those related to the floods of the last 2 years, as well as the hydropeaking effect of the discharges from CHE-2 was evaluated.
Another issue of concern to Working Group is the ecological spring flood. Each year is characterized by a specific hydrological and climatic situation, which must be taken into account, in the process of development of the hydrograph of the artificial flood, which has the purpose to imitate the natural flood of the river. This is necessary for the regeneration of the river ecosystem and for reproduction of fishes and birds, in particular, from the wetlands of the Lower Dniester, where three areas of international importance Ramsar (one in the Republic of Moldova and two in Ukraine) are situated. In 2020 there were no favorable conditions for the realization of the spring ecological flood, in the current year, 2021, the hydrological situation is much better. We put the effort to negotiate with the Ukrainian team regarding the volumes of water to be stored in the reservoir at the Dnestrovsk dam, and on the ecological flood graph (hydrograph of the spring ecological flood) which should be planned in a way to take in consideration all the interests of different species of fish and birds in the Dniester river floodplain.
It's time to conserve water resources and rethink our attitude towards water !!
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