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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

Ukraine: one year after the outbreak of war, EU support for the environmental and water sector continues with a focus on the country’s long-term recovery

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

Dnipro River Basin Management Plan

With support from the EU4Environment Water & Data Programme, national experts in Ukraine have started work on the final stage of the Dnipro River Basin Management Plan. A consultation was held with representatives of the Dnipro River Basin management bodies regarding the preparation of the Programme of Measures. The Ministry of Ecology and Natural Resources of Ukraine has set up a working group with the participation of all responsible management bodies to finalise the 9 River Basin Management Plans (RBMP). The Dnipro RBMP will serve as a model for other basins.

Water accounting

Following up on meetings involving bilateral experts, the Programme’s water accounting experts are preparing a webinar for specialists from Ukraine and the Republic of Moldova. The topic will be European approaches to water accounting and how to improve knowledge on water use.

Surface water classification standard

For assessing and improving the ecological status of water bodies, as required by the EU Water Framework Directive, a type-specific classification system is being developed for Ukraine. This must take into account biological quality elements (BQE) involving input from Ukrainian hydrobiologists at the Central Geophysical Observatory. A related standard drafted by consultants is being reviewed with European experts and will soon be completed.

Identification of nitrate-vulnerable zones

The Programme is also supporting Ukraine to implement the EU Nitrate Directive. A recent working meeting bringing together EU4Environment Water and Data Programme experts, the State Water Agency and national experts focused on the problem of determining zones vulnerable to nitrate pollution in Ukraine. This zoning must also be reported in the Dnipro RBMP. The Programme offered work together with the inter-ministerial working group and supports a proposal to classify the entire territory of Ukraine as vulnerable to nitrate pollution.

Corine land cover mapping

The Programme is preparing a kick-off meeting in Ukraine with parties interested in starting land monitoring activities in Ukraine. This refers to the implementation of a pilot project: "Creation of a standard European database Corine Land Cover (CLC) of the Carpathian region for an area of 27,000 km2". This part of Ukraine is also subject to the Carpathian Convention.     

Support for the Vyshgorod laboratory

The Programme continues to support the laboratory in the Northern Region of the State Agency of Water Resources in its pursuit of international accreditation by offering training, proficiency tests and guidance on meeting international ISO quality standards. Consultations are also being held regarding the need for a generator to ensure the uninterrupted operation of laboratory equipment during blackouts.

Revitalisation of water courses in Ukraine

Support from the Programme (OECD) has led to the development of methodological recommendations for the restoration of hydromorphological characteristics of watercourses in 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  :



World Water Day: water in times of war – the case of Ukraine

World Water Day: water in times of war – the case of Ukraine

Country: Ukraine
Component: Water resources, Environmental Data

The European Union and its international partners are united in condemning Russia's brutal aggression on Ukraine. The impact of the war on civilians is reaching terrifying proportions. As of 20 March, according to the UN refugee agency, 10 million Ukrainians fled their homes because of the war, of which around 3.4 million have crossed into neighbouring countries1. Countless innocent people – including women and children – have been killed. Infrastructure worth of some €90 billion has been destroyed according to Government’s estimates, including buildings, roads, bridges, hospitals, schools, industrial facilities and other physical assets2.

The war is also having a detrimental impact on the environment in Ukraine, Europe and globally. According to the European Environment Agency, depending on the extent of the destruction caused by the war and the type of arsenal deployed, toxic chemicals in water, soil and the air might persist for decades to come, harming human health, habitats and species. In addition to pollution, debris, waste and destruction of ecosystems, wars and the reconstruction in their aftermath are very resource intensive, exerting additional pressures and demands on energy and construction materials3.

What are the impacts of war on human health and water ecosystems?

In times of war, both human health and the environment are affected.

Damage to water supply and sanitation can deprive people of their human right of access to water. Water supply and wastewater treatment plants and networks, monitoring systems and other important infrastructure can stop to function, fully or partially, because of physical destruction by shelling, electricity cuts, lack of supplies, or maintenance personnel losing control, access or being forced to flee the premises.

In areas of Ukraine directly concerned by military action, access to water supply and sanitation is among key concerns. Ukrainian cities under siege are suffering an extreme humanitarian crisis: the Red Cross described the situation in Mariupol as "apocalyptic"4. Hundreds of thousands of civilians lost access to drinking water. According to media reports, people in Mariupol were forced to melt snow for drinking water and cook on open fires with food, water and power supplies cut off5. To recall that the Human Right to Water and Sanitation was recognised by the United Nations in July 2010.

In such conditions, the risk of waterborne infectious diseases is maximal. One of such infectious diseases is cholera. Since the 1960s, the Southern part of Ukraine has been exposed to several

epidemics of cholera6. The last cholera outbreak in Europe happened in 2011 in Mariupol7. The UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF) pinpointed in a 2019 report8 that during conflicts, unsafe water can be just as deadly as bullets. On average, children under the age of 15 who are living in conflict are nearly three times more likely to die from diseases linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from direct violence. For younger children, the situation is worse. Children under five years old are more than 20 times more likely to die from diseases linked to unsafe water and sanitation than from direct violence.

Moreover, wars increase pollution in rivers, lakes, wetlands and aquifers. For example, air strikes and shelling can destroy industrial installations, landfill sites and waste storage facilities, including mining tailings. This can result in spills of hazardous substances9.

Water can also become a weapon and its use to achieve military objectives is no new phenomenon. A destroyed dam can flood lands and cities far downstream, such as may be the case on the Dnipro river impoundments. Seizing strategic water infrastructure can become a military purpose in itself. For example, Russia captured the Kakhovska hydropower plant, one of the largest of its kind in Ukraine. The hydropower plant is located on the reservoir cooling the Zaporizhzhya Nuclear Power Plant which in turn the largest in Europe and one of the ten largest in the world.

War is also a serious blow to transboundary cooperation. The war leads to various cross-border transport of air and water pollution, notably via rivers into the Black Sea with its sensitive ecosystem that was already damaged in past decades. It is impossible to know how much time it may take to revive dialogue on the river basins shared with Russia and Belarus.


What could be done to protect human health from waterborne diseases?

The World Health Organization (WHO)10 stresses the importance to prevent the development and spread of waterborne diseases in conditions where these diseases can easily attain epidemic proportions, especially in war affected or spontaneous settlements.

Access to sanitary facilities, including hand-washing, and sufficient amounts of safe drinking-water is critical for the prevention of waterborne diseases. Water, sanitation and hygiene facilities at reception centres and border points should be thoroughly assessed. Local authorities must aim to monitor the microbiological quality of drinking-water closely.

When necessary, emergency water supplies should be established (e.g. packaged water, trucked water and/or mobile water treatment, disinfection and storage units). Hand-washing facilities and sufficient soap should always be available near toilets.


What is already being done for water and the environment to support Ukraine during the war?

With the currently severe strain of Ukraine’s water and environmental management and the loss of, or damage to, significant parts of the country’s monitoring network, collecting reliable information becomes a priority. The Ministry of Environmental Protection and Natural Resources of Ukraine already called on Ukrainian NGOs and other partners to help collect data to document war damage to the environment. The State Ecological Inspectorate (SEI) in Ukraine continues to record the consequences of Russian aggression in areas where sewage treatment plants are located.

On 15 March, Acting Minister of Environment and Natural Resources of Ukraine Ruslan Strelts met with EU Commissioner for Environment, Oceans and Fisheries Virginius Sinkevičius. At this meeting, the Minister identified the main priorities of the Ministry in connection with the consequences of military action in the field of environment.

International organisations are scaling up similar efforts too, not least to help support the eventual post-war reconstruction and to help ensure that it is done in the most climate and environment conscious way possible. The scale and the cost of environmental damage may also become the subject of future legal cases at international courts addressing war crimes.

Today Ukraine needs urgent access to safe drinking water for regions isolated by the war. And it will need support tomorrow to restore and rebuild the country, including its water and environmental governance, management and monitoring.

The EU, and the international community, stand with Ukraine and its people ready to address their most pressing needs and to support the long-term recovery and further development of the country.


Written by the EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data in the Eastern Partner Countries programme in cooperation with Zoï Environment Network. "



- Schillinger J, Özerol G, Güven-Griemert S, Heldeweg M. “Water in war: Understanding the impacts of armed conflict on water resources and their management”. WIREs Water. 2020;7;e1480. consulted online on 10/03/2022 at

- Official article on the website of the Ministry of Environment and Natural Resource of Ukraine

- Weekly digest from Ukrainian colleagues of EU4Environment – Water Resources and Environmental Data.








6 Clark, C. G., et al. “Microbiological and Epidemiological Investigation of Cholera Epidemic in Ukraine during 1994 and 1995.” Epidemiology and Infection, vol. 121, no. 1, Cambridge University Press, 1998, pp. 1–13,





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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