Which regions during the floods are at risk this year?
Dmitry Kirillov: The flood in the country has been developing since the beginning of March; these are standard terms. From the south, he went to the Volga region, then approached the central regions. High temperatures in the first weeks of March woke up the rivers in the Tatarstan, Ulyanovsk, Tula, Volgograd, Samara, Orenburg, Novgorod, Penza, Saratov, and Krasnodar regions. In some settlements, the water spilled onto the floodplain, but fortunately without major consequences. From the temperature regime and, as they say in our professional environment, the kindness of the flood, the subsequent situation will depend.
Spring floods are always expected, but the scenarios for their development are extremely diverse. The process is influenced not only by the current temperature outside the window, it is important how the water bodies froze, what was the fall, winter, the amount and nature of precipitation. In spring we have traditional care points in the basins of the Northern Dvina, Pechora, Kama. If we call the regions, these are the Vologda, Arkhangelsk regions, the Perm Territory, the Nenets and Yamalo-Nenets Autonomous Okrugs, the Republic of Sakha (Yakutia). Before the ice begins to crumble, on difficult sections of the channels, it is preemptively weakened and sawn. The extremely high snow reserves in these regions are not recorded today, however, the work is already underway, depending on the territories, it will be completed on April 1 or May 1. In the Northern Dvina and Sukhona in the Vologda Oblast, in the section between the city of Veliky Ustyug and the city of Krasavino, ice-cutting works have already been carried out over a length of more than 18 km.
Since early March, a high alert mode has been operating throughout the agency’s system. Exercises are being held, interdepartmental interaction is being polished, including with colleagues from the Ministry of Emergency Situations. Regardless of the nature of the next flood, all forces and means are ready.
Flash floods, which are difficult to forecast in advance, have a floating season. In the Far Eastern regions, this is usually summer and early autumn.
And what about regions where there may be water shortages?
Dmitry Kirillov: The volume of the river flow depends primarily on precipitation. If there are few of them, and the thermometer is above zero, then the input is small. There are such forecasts for the Rostov Region and the Krasnodar Territory, that is, for the main agricultural regions. Approximately 60% of total water consumption is used for food production. And now the task is to create conditions for reliable water supply to industries that will ensure the food security of the state.
It is important that the south of Russia is not just generous fields. This is a unique deep-water system of the European part of the country, access to the Caspian and Black seas. Consequently, navigation must also be guaranteed. All of this requires a rational and economic disposition of resources.
Another artery where it is necessary to support shipping is the Don. The agency stored water all winter. Thanks to the savings, there is now 2 km3 more water in the Tsimlyansk reservoir than last year. For comparison, all agriculture on the Lower Don consumes about 1.7 km3. Thus, for this year the river is endowed with a resource for all chores.
As for the reservoirs in the Far East and Siberia, we continue to release them to receive the flood with minimal risks to people and infrastructure.
What water cycle is Baikal in now? Is water shortage expected?
Dmitry Kirillov: Since 2018, Baikal has been in a phase of high water content. We hope that this year the lake will return to normal according to long-term average values, no extraordinary events are forecast. We believe that the summer period will be quiet both in terms of the ecological well-being of the lake and the functioning of the economic sectors.
Is it now possible to make a forecast when the low water season will start?
Dmitry Kirillov: Before the calendar dates, it is impossible. On average, the high and low tide phases on Baikal fluctuate at the 15-year level. In addition, meteorologists do not undertake to state in which part of this or that cycle we are right now. But the dam in Irkutsk was built in order to prevent natural surges or recessions from depriving everything that is vital for a person.
What can be said about the quality of the water?
Dmitry Kirillov: He was and still is at the highest level, first class. In order to maintain and even improve the quality of water in Lake Baikal, the government has ensured the implementation of a large set of measures on its shores within the framework of the national project “Ecology”. Among them is the reconstruction of sewage treatment plants in the city of Ulan-Ude, which is located on the lake’s main tributary, the Selenga River. It is domestic sewage that is now the main source of pollution of the lake.
In spring, the regulation of the Volga-Kama waterfall causes disputes between regions and industries. Why do they arise and how do you prioritize them?
Dmitry Kirillov: I propose to start with numbers. The annual runoff of the Volga is on average 259 km3. About 12 km3 of this volume are used, that is, less than 5%. As you can see, there is no need to talk about water scarcity. However, the period is approaching when industries start to share the resource. I repeat: it is in the interest of the stability of the industries that dams are built. Housing and communal services, hydroelectric power, crops, fishing, industry, water transport – everything is important. The rules for the use of reservoirs mark the ranges within which we always operate.
Considering that the regulators allow us to manage about a third of the flow, there are no problems that cannot be solved by further equipping the engineering infrastructure. It must be adapted to the design parameters and relevant elevations. Local solutions: the deepening of water intakes, the construction of retaining structures, floating pumps – all this will allow you to pass any climatic phase calmly and without losses.
Regarding the second part of the question, the priority is indicated by the Water Code: it deals with the domestic water supply for the population.
How is the construction of protective structures going this year?
Dmitry Kirillov: Priorities remain, work continues both in the Far Eastern regions and in other regions of the country. For the next 3 years (2023-2025), the Russian government has allocated 15 billion rubles for the construction of engineering protection facilities.
In 2023, Rosvodresursy funds 30 such events. Several objects, one could say, are at the finish line, for example, in Buryatia, the Chechen Republic, Tyva, the Perm Territory, Tatarstan.
Most of the work is concentrated, as you know, in the FEFD river basins. There are some difficulties there, but we hope that by 2025 all the facilities will be built. Some of them are already partially fulfilling their functions.
What else allows you to increase safety in the event of an extreme rise in water level? Cleaning of difficult sections of the riverbeds that, within the limits of the settlements, allow the passage of water with the least obstacles. Every year it is possible to simplify the water route for a length of 100-200 km. The next important direction is the repair of existing hydraulic structures: dams, dams. This work is carried out within the framework of the state program “Reproduction and use of natural resources”. In 2023 we will finance more than 100 events in 44 regions of the country.
Have the sanctions affected work?
Dmitry Kirillov: Not critical. We use equipment that the Russian industry can provide.
What is the situation with the filling of the Crimean reservoirs?
Dmitry Kirillov: The water supply to the settlements of the central and southern coast of Crimea is carried out from naturally flowing reservoirs located on the rivers, today they are filled with 192.5 million m3, which is more than the average for long term of previous years.
The water supply to the settlements in eastern Crimea comes from the reservoirs of the northern Crimean canal system. At present, thanks to the restoration of the Dnieper water supply, they are filled 2 times more than last year – at 58.7 million m3. The release of water through the North Crimean Canal to the republic was carried out on March 18.
Are there plans to work in new territories?
Dmitry Kirillov: Territorial bodies of the agency have been created in the four new constituent entities of the Russian Federation. We continue to recruit personnel, conduct training in the Rostov region on the basis of our research center.
In all four regions we are completing the procedures for the zoning of water management, which is necessary to calculate the balance of water management. In simpler terms, how much water, what quality it is, from what sources and for what purposes it can be used.
By 2023, together with colleagues, we have identified a number of priority activities that need to be implemented. These are the cleaning of the Lugan River in the Lugansk Territory, the Kalmius River in the DPR territory, and a number of others. We also create a registry of legal entities and natural persons that use bodies of water.
Can you anticipate if there is a shortage of water in the new territories?
Dmitry Kirillov: This is a geographically and historically established fact.
The territories of the Luhansk and Donetsk People’s Republics have always had a shortage of water and were irrigated by the Seversky Donets – Donbass artificial canal. Now measures related to the supply of water to the regions from other sources are being taken, mainly to ensure the supply of drinking water.