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The toll of two years of war on water: Damage and needs assessment in Ukraine's water sector

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources

Russia's war of aggression against Ukraine has caused extensive damage to irrigation, water supply, sanitation and water ecosystems. Here are some findings of The World Bank for the water sector from the third Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment (RDNA3), February 2022 - December 2023.

The full report is available here:

Irrigation and Agriculture

Before the war, agriculture accounted for a significant share of Ukraine's GDP (10%) and exports (41%). Although irrigation is used on only 1% of all agricultural land, it is vital for crops such as potatoes, tomatoes and rice. Drainage systems, which provide usable pasture and forage land, covered 10% of agricultural land and significantly increase the country's production capacity for cereals and beef.

The war resulted in the destruction of water infrastructure vital to the agricultural sector, such as irrigation canals, pumps and reservoirs, with damage estimated at $740.2 million and total reconstruction needs of $10.7 billion over the next decade.  Damage to the irrigation and water sector in Ukraine increased dramatically, rising by 95%, mainly due to the destruction of the Kakhovka dam on 6 June 2023.

Priority must be given to modernising drainage and irrigation systems not only to secure the country's vital economic sector, but also to reduce the impact of agriculture on ecosystems. This means reducing the amount of pesticides discharged into rivers, and making Ukrainian landscapes more resilient to floods and droughts in the face of the effects of climate change.

Water Supply and Sanitation

Access to centralised piped water supply and wastewater collection and treatment services in Ukraine was already limited before the war: 70% and 50% of the population respectively, with significant inequalities between urban and rural areas. The level of water supply and sanitation services was relatively low for a country seeking to align its sector requirements with those of the European Union's water directives.

The war exacerbated the situation, leaving millions of Ukrainians with intermittent or inadequate water services. Destruction of networks and infrastructure, as well as power cuts, are severely affecting service delivery across the country. The WASH Cluster (a network of actors working in the Water Sanitation and Health (WASH) sector and led by UNICEF) estimated that there are 9.6 million people in need for essential water supply and sanitation services for 2024 alone. In particular, up to 1 million people have lost access to drinking water following the breach of the Kakhovka dam. The report estimates the damage to the water and sanitation sector at nearly $4 billion and the total reconstruction and recovery needs at $11.1 billion for 2024-2033.

Short-term needs focus on maintaining and restoring service delivery by rebuilding damaged infrastructure and strengthening local technical and operational capacity to complete previously planned WSS development schemes. The report emphasises the need to decentralise water supply and sanitation facilities, to favour low-cost and easy-to-maintain infrastructure relevant to Ukraine, and to reform water tariffs to enable the sector to be adequately financed.

Natural resources and ecosystems

The war has led to extensive pollution of air, water, soil and biota, exacerbated by the breach of the Kakhovka Dam, with long-term health and environmental risks. In a country with pre-war environmental problems (including poor urban air quality, poor waste management and ineffective environmental controls), the long-term effects of damage could be even more destructive than the immediate effects.

The disastrous flooding following the breach of the Kakhovka dam poses additional long-term health risks due to the discharge of hazardous chemicals from downstream manufacturing facilities. The floodwaters were also contaminated with biological hazards, such as untreated sewage and dead wildlife, increasing the risk of waterborne diseases such as cholera, diarrhoea and others.

While Ukraine's current environmental legislation is relatively good, including from an EU perspective, implementation and enforcement remain weak.

According to The World Bank report, an estimated US$ 665 million will be needed for capacity building activities to strengthen environmental governance, mainly for emergency containment and clean-up of pollution.

Natural ecosystems such as rivers, groundwater, forests, etc. will take much longer than a few months to recover their capacity to provide ecosystem services. For example, the minimum recovery period for the provision of services in the fire-damaged forest areas will be 20 years or more (longer for ecological services).

In the future, restoring ecosystem service values for the Ukrainian context could avoid the need to use global or regional averages.


Despite the war, professionals in the Ukrainian water sector are doing their utmost to continue providing the many services needed by the population and to understand the damage to ecosystems as best they can. This video, produced by the Ukrainian Water Agency with EU support, shows the courage and dedication of Ukraine's water professionals.


Read more:

Our article about the impact of the Kakhovka dam destruction (July 2023)

CEOBS and Zoï Environment Network article about the impact of the Russia's war on water resources (December 2022), with maps and detailed case study of the Irpine river.

Intensive Training Boosts River Basin Management Plans in Ukraine

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources

In Ukraine, a two-day training session (5-6 September 2023) has been initiated by the State Agency for Water Resources, with support of the EU4Environment Water and Data programme. The training, attended by experts from various water management departments and offices, along with representatives from relevant ministries and the EU4 Environment Water and Data Programme, is dedicated to refining draft river basin management plans. These plans play a pivotal role in addressing key water and environmental challenges, aligning with European water directives.

Ihor Hopchak, Deputy Head of the State Agency, emphasized the need for comprehensive and high-quality river basin management plans. These plans, he noted, are crucial for achieving a 'good' water status and tackling critical water-related issues.

The workshop will delve into specific sections of the management plans, focusing on surface and groundwater characteristics, human-induced impacts, and protected areas. Additionally, discussions will revolve around mapping monitoring systems and the result od monitoring programmes, and setting environmental objectives.

Over the two-day session, participants engaged in in-depth conversations about practical aspects of plan preparation, fostering an environment for idea exchange and collaborative problem-solving. The training will culminate with an examination of a detailed analysis of the cost-effectiveness of the programme of measures.

The second day of the workshop shifted the spotlight towards integrating river basin management plans into broader cross-sectoral national strategies. It also covered the involvement of basin councils in RBMP approval, strategic environmental assessments, and the procedure for public discussion on the RBMP. This training represents a significant stride towards bolstering river basin management efforts in Ukraine.

Read the article in Ukrainian on the website of the State Agency of Water Resources of Ukraine:

Credit picture: State Agency of Water Resources of Ukraine

Laboratory in Ukraine Achieves International Accreditation with EU Support

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources

The Vyshgorod laboratory of the State Agency for Water Resources of Ukraine has received accreditation in accordance with the requirements of DSTU EN ISO/IEC 17025:2019, which certifies compliance with the latest international quality standards for laboratories.

This accreditation follows support from the EU, notably the EU4Environment Water and Data Programme, which provided equipment, training and assistance in the preparation of the necessary documentation required for accreditation (including the establishment of appropriate quality management system documentation).

The accreditation confirms that the results provided by the Vyshgorod laboratory for drinking water, wastewater and surface and groundwater monitoring are consistent and trustworthy, allowing policy decisions to be made on the basis of sound scientific evidence.


Read more (in Ukrainian) on the website of the State Agency of Water Resources of Ukraine

The wider impact of the Kakhovka dam destruction

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources

On 7 July, Ukraine celebrated Dnipro Day. However, this year's river event was overshadowed by a bitter reality—the devastating humanitarian and ecological consequences caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam on 6 June 2023. The dam, completed in 1956, was crucial for hydroelectric power, irrigation, and navigation on the lower Dnipro River in Kherson Oblast. It was the sixth and last dam in the Dnieper reservoir cascade.

Picture: Nasa Satellite image of a part of the Kakhovka reservoir in the area of Nikopol and Enerhodar as of 3 July 2023

After the Russian military attack, the large Kakhovka reservoir quickly emptied in just a few days. However, downstream, the flooded land remained wet and polluted for many weeks. Similar to other flood events, sewage, entrenched oil tanks, and other local contaminants spilled over urban and agricultural areas. Once the fine sludge from the reservoir dries up, it will form a hard seal on the surface that will be difficult to remove.

Loads of pollution spread into the Black Sea

Over many years, the sludge and sediment that accumulated behind the dam contained a large amount of old pollution – a dirty heritage since Soviet times. When the dam was breached, all of this pollution was washed downstream into the big sink - the Black Sea: it is probably the worst concentrated spill ever of this sea.

A good guess of the type of pollutants that got spilled can be derived from the first Dnipro basin pollution screening, which was undertaken during the EU Water Initiative Plus project in October 2020. It then indicated for 27 investigated sites across the Dnipro basin some small but also several serious cases of water pollution: among the 4 sites along the Dnipro the one downstream from Zaporizhzhia showed very high values for cadmium, copper and organic compounds in fish.

This dangerous mix of chemicals is now gradually spreading not only over riverine and coastal areas but also into the marine ecosystem of the north-western Black Sea. As a result, it's impacting protected and ecologically sensitive regions, including the large Phyllophora (red algae) fields called “Corals of the Black Sea”.

Additionally, a significant amount of washed soil and organic matter led to severe eutrophication of the Black Sea. Toxic algae covered the sea's surface, reducing the oxygen available for marine life to thrive.


Another problem arises from the marine litter, including doors, clothing, tents, books, and other items from flooded houses, now polluting the sea. Although these items will eventually break down, the current situation has already caused the death of half of the mussels' population responsible for water purification.

Additional side-effects for the population

Enduring wetlands may become substrates for human diseases but also of mosquitoe plagues over the summer 2023: related epidemiological monitoring is undertaken by Ukrainian health agencies.

Land mines, ammunition and military equipment got also spread over the flood land and into the sea, posing other enormous hardly visible threats.


Despite the nearby military frontline, Ukrainian scientists have begun monitoring biodiversity in various ecosystems at the bottom of the Kakhovka Reservoir, which belongs to the Kamianska Sich National Nature Park. Approximately 200,000 hectares of the river lake now appear "deserted," with a risk of dust clouds blowing into nearby residential areas. However, this land is expected to undergo a transformation soon: the first plants have already started sprouting, and various pioneer grass and tree seeds will trigger a natural self-restoration process. In a few years, a young forest will develop on the former reservoir bed.

Imagining the future of this region

The most significant issue facing the region right now is the loss of a crucial water supply for tens of thousands of local people and a significant agricultural area. Restoring this water service is the most significant challenge for Ukrainian water agencies in the next 2-3 years.

Re-building the dam and reservoir would take several years. However, experts from the Environment Agency Austria suggest that it should not be the only option considered for this river area. Since the water supply problem needs urgent resolution, the former reservoir might after the war no longer need to serve its main purpose and could instead be left as a protected, self-restoring natural river area.

Read the statement by High Representative Josep Borrell and Commissioner for Crisis Management Janez Lenarčič on the destruction of the Kakhovka dam  :



Nine Draft River Basin Management Plans For Ukraine

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources

Ukrainian version below. Українська версія нижче. 


On December 21, 2023, the State Agency of Water Resources, hosted a press conference in Kyiv to kick off the public consultation of the nine new draft River Basin Management Plans (RBMPs) of the country. The development of management plans for the river basins of Ukraine is backed by the European Union through the EU4Environment Water and Data programme. The public consultation on the plans will continue until June 2024, before the plans will be finalized and formally adopted by the Government.

“We are really impressed that Ukraine has accomplished the production of all nine plans under the given conditions of war and limited data available. The State Agency for Water Resources and a team of competent experts worked very hard to collect most of the required comprehensive information”, said Alexander Zinke from the Environment Agency Austria and leader of the EU4Environment Water and Data programme. “These plans are the basis for an integrated, EU-compliant water management.”

Philippe Seguin from the International Office for Water in France added: “It is our privilege to provide guidance and financial support to the Ukrainian water sector to develop these ambitious plans. They still need some improvement and we will continue our support. We hope that the public participating in the consultation will contribute to finishing these plans in summer 2024”

The importance given by the Ukrainian Government to the process of consulting the prepared draft River Basin Management Plans, a fundamental principle of the EU Water Framework Directive, reflects Ukraine's commitment to sustainable water management and to swiftly aligning with European water law standards.

Expected adoption of the plans by the end of 2024

Over the past two years, Ukrainian experts dedicated their efforts to finalize the Dnipro River Basin Management Plan, the biggest river basin in Ukraine (covering 65% of the country and home to 30 million inhabitants), with the support of the EU4Environment Water and Data programme. The largest river basin district of Ukraine comprises four sub-basins (Upper Dnipro and the Desna, Prypiat, Middle Dnipro, and Lower Dnipro).

The Dnipro River Basin Management Plan is serving as a blueprint for the development of management plans for the other eight river basins across Ukraine: Dniester, Danube, Southern Bug, Don, Vistula, Crimea, and the coastal streams of the Black Sea and the Azov Sea. All river basins in Ukraine discharge directly or indirectly into the Black Sea, except the Vistula, which flows towards the Baltic Sea.

The River Basin Management Plans focus on the spatial unit of river basins, a fundamental principle of the EU Water Framework Directive, transcending traditional sectoral water use and management. The river basin approach offers a decentralized framework, addressing local water challenges effectively and promoting equal access to water while ensuring the long-term sustainability of water resources across the entire basin. This progress has been achieved despite the military aggression by Russia in Ukraine.

Clear vision for Ukraine's future water management in the aftermath of the War

The process of public consultation about the draft plans will last for six months. The public consultation process comes in addition to a more formal participative process through  meetings of River Basin Councils which engage water management institutions, local authorities and representatives of water users. The now started public consultation opens the dialogue on water resources protection and fair use to the wider public:local residents and stakeholders who have different levels of knowledge, engagement and interests about water resources.

The EU4Environment Water and Data programme supports this consultation process in Ukraine. It plays a pivotal role in enhancing Ukrainian stakeholders' capacities to collaboratively assess their river basins, considering the impacts of the ongoing war and outlining necessary measures and associated costs. The programme supports also the preparation of the Strategic Environmental Assessments of the nine River Basin Management Plans.

Background information

Ukraine is the country with the largest territory in Europe, yet the availability of renewable freshwater resources for its 42 million inhabitants is roughly twice as small on average as that of European countries. Water availability is unevenly distributed: while the north of the country enjoys good access to water, regions in the south and east have water shortages.

Ukraine has assumed commitments to reform water policies as part of the Association Agreement signed with the European Union that entered into force on 1 September 2017. This includes alignment with the EU water law, in particular, the Water Framework Directive (WFD). The EU candidate status granted to Ukraine in June 2022 recognises significant progress but also stresses the need to facilitate policy reforms in accordance with EU norms and standards. For over a decade, the European Union has provided comprehensive support for reforming the water sector in Ukraine. Recognising the good progress in various policy fields, the European Council has decided on 14-15 December to open accession negotiations with Ukraine.

Map: River Basin Districts in Ukraine. Credit: Oksana Konovalenko, EUWI+ project



Дев'ять проєктів планів управління річковими басейнами України

21 грудня 2023 року Державне агентство водних ресурсів України організувало прес-конференцію в Києві, з метою розпочати громадське обговорення дев’яти нових проєктів Планів управління річковими басейнами (ПУРБ) країни. Розробка планів управління річковими басейнами України підтримується Європейським Союзом через Програму «Європейський Союз для довкілля: водні ресурси та екологічні дані». Громадські консультації щодо планів триватимуть до червня 2024 року, перш ніж плани будуть остаточно доопрацьовані та офіційно ухвалені Урядом.

«Ми справді вражені тим, що Україна завершила розробку всіх дев’яти планів за складних умов війни та обмежених даних. Держводагентство та команда компетентних експертів дуже багато працювали, щоб зібрати більшу частину необхідної вичерпної інформації», – сказав Олександр Зінке з Агентства з навколишнього середовища Австрії та керівник Програми ЄС. «Ці плани є основою для інтегрованого управління водними ресурсами, яке відповідає вимогам ЄС».

Філіп Сеган з Міжнародного офісу водних ресурсів у Франції додав: «Ми маємо честь надавати консультації та фінансову підтримку українському водному сектору для розробки цих амбітних планів. Вони все ще потребують удосконалення, і ми продовжуватимемо нашу підтримку. Ми сподіваємося, що громадськість, яка бере участь у консультаціях, сприятиме завершенню цих планів влітку 2024 року».

Важливість, яку український Уряд надає процесу консультацій з підготовленими проєктами ПУРБ, що є основоположним принципом Водної рамкової директиви ЄС, відображає зобов’язання України щодо сталого управління водними ресурсами та швидкої гармонізації із стандартами європейського водного права.

Очікуване прийняття планів до кінця 2024 року

Протягом останніх двох років українські експерти присвятили свої зусилля завершенню розробки Плану управління басейном річки Дніпро, найбільшого річкового басейну в Україні (охоплює 65% території країни, де проживає 30 мільйонів жителів), за підтримки Програми «Європейський Союз для довкілля: водні ресурси та екологічні дані». Найбільший район річкового басейну України складається з чотирьох суббасейнів (Верхнього Дніпра та Десни, Прип'яті, Середнього Дніпра та Нижнього Дніпра).

План управління басейном річки Дніпро є основою для розробки планів управління для інших восьми річкових басейнів в Україні: Дністра, Дунаю, Південного Бугу, Дону, Вісли, Криму, річок Причорномор’я та Приазов’я. Усі річкові басейни України прямо чи опосередковано впадають у Чорне море, за винятком Вісли, басейн якої належить до Балтійського моря.

Плани управління річковими басейнами України зосереджені на просторовій одиниці річкових басейнів, фундаментальному принципі Водної рамкової директиви ЄС, що виходить за межі традиційного секторального водокористування та управління. Підхід до річкового басейну пропонує децентралізовану структуру, яка ефективно вирішує місцеві водні проблеми та сприяє рівному доступу до води, забезпечуючи при цьому довгострокову стійкість водних ресурсів у всьому басейні. Цей прогрес був досягнутий, незважаючи на військову агресію рф в Україні.

Чітке бачення майбутнього управління водними ресурсами України після війни

Процес громадського обговорення проєктів ПУРБ триватиме півроку. Процес громадських консультацій є доповненням до більш формального процесу участі через засідання Рад річкових басейнів, які залучають водогосподарські установи, місцеву владу та представників водокористувачів. Розпочата публічна консультація відкриває діалог щодо охорони водних ресурсів та справедливого використання для широкої громадськості: місцевих жителів та зацікавлених сторін, які мають різний рівень знань, залученості та інтересів щодо водних ресурсів.

Програма «Європейський Союз для довкілля: водні ресурси та екологічні дані» підтримує цей процес консультацій в Україні. Він відіграє ключову роль у зміцненні спроможності українських зацікавлених сторін спільно оцінювати свої річкові басейни, враховуючи наслідки війни, що триває, та окреслюючи необхідні заходи та відповідні витрати. Програма також підтримує підготовку Стратегічної екологічної оцінки дев'яти планів управління річковими басейнами.

Довідкова інформація

Україна є найбільшою за територією країною в Європі, але доступність відновлюваних ресурсів прісної води для її 42 мільйонів жителів у середньому приблизно вдвічі менша, ніж у європейських країнах. Забезпеченість водою розподілена нерівномірно: у той час як північ країни має хороший доступ до води, регіони на півдні та сході мають дефіцит води.

Україна взяла на себе зобов’язання щодо реформування водної політики в рамках Угоди про асоціацію з Європейським Союзом, яка набула чинності 1 вересня 2017 року. Це включає гармонізацію з водним законодавством ЄС, зокрема Водною рамковою директивою. Статус кандидата в ЄС, наданий Україні в червні 2022 року, визнає значний прогрес, але також підкреслює необхідність сприяти реформам політики відповідно до норм і стандартів ЄС. Понад десять років Європейський Союз надає всебічну підтримку реформуванню водного сектору в Україні. Визнаючи хороший прогрес у різних сферах політики, Європейська рада 14-15 грудня схвалила початок переговорів про вступ України в Європейський Союз.

Карта: Райони річкових басейнів України. Авторство: Оксана Коноваленко, проект EUWI+

The EU-funded “EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data” Programme, launched in 2021, aims at supporting a more sustainable use of water resources and improving the use of sound environmental data ... Read more




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