Machine translation


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.

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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