The current sanitary standards for drinking water in Ukraine (tap water, bottled water, water from pump rooms, bottling points, wells, and springs) RSSR 2.2.4-171-10 have not changed since 2010 and contain significant discrepancies with European standards described in particular in Directive 98/83 / EC. Ukraine pledged to implement the directive back in 2014 by ratifying the Association Agreement with the EU. The main discrepancies in the documents are in the list of regulated indicators of safety and quality of drinking water, their standards, the rules for organizing sampling to determine the quality, the very procedure for assessing quality by "indicator" indicators, informing consumers about the state of drinking water supply and the quality of drinking water.
"This does not mean that the water that flows from the taps today is unfit for drinking or is bad. In no case! It is safe and, in particular, in Kyiv, it is one of the best. I myself drink water from the tap and cook on her food and tea. An uncomplicated filter to protect against suspended solids that can slip through with tap water is enough," director of Ukraine’s water supply department association Oleksandr Shkin assures.
But, undoubtedly, the water in Ukraine is not as good as in Europe, including in terms of taste. And the further from the capital, the worse the situation. According to the State Food and Consumer Service, out of 33,434 samples of drinking water from centralized water supply examined in 2020, the number of detected deviations from the norms of even existing sanitary rules was 12.1%. In terms of microbiological indicators, 14396 samples were examined, deviations were found in 7.3%; in 22799 samples examined for sanitary and chemical indicators, deviations are 13.7%. High rates of deviation in drinking water samples in terms of microbiological indicators were found in Mykolaiv (24% of samples taken), Ternopil (10%), Chernivtsi (31.7%), Odesa (17%), Vinnytsia (15.7%), Kharkiv ( 15.5%), Donetsk (11%), Zakarpattia (7.4%), Ivano-Frankivsk (5.7%), Zhytomyr (19%), Luhansk, Sumy (10%), Cherkasy (6.3%) ) regions.
Significant deviations of drinking water samples in terms of sanitary and chemical indicators were established in the Donetsk region - 59% of the tested samples, Zaporizhia - 71%, Zhytomyr - 36%, Mykolaiv - 61%, Odesa - 85.6%, Luhansk - 27%, Poltava - 31.4%, Rivne - 37.2%, Ternopil - 42%, Kharkiv - 49%, Kherson - 42%, Khmelnytsky - 19%, Chernivtsi - 16%, Kirovohrad - 11%, Vinnytsia - 7.5%.
Main drainage systems are outdated long ago - the service life of a number of them exceeds 60 years or more. This often leads to accidents and breakouts.
"Today, the problem with drinking water is often not related to the quality of water treatment of in-house networks, in which secondary pollution occurs and turbidity, color, iron appears. There are deposits in the pipes, and this suspension may well rise. There are many main pipes, the service life of which has already reached 60 years and more. And if the main lines are, though slowly, but nevertheless shifted, the situation with intra-house networks is depressing. If in new buildings the situation is normal, then in old houses flushing is often not carried out at all," said Shkin.
Every year, the condition of reservoirs from which drinking water is withdrawn is also deteriorating, which requires an increase in the cost of cleaning. The main waterway of Ukraine is the Dnieper River, the annual water intake from which is 7.4 billion cubic meters, or 78.7% of the total water withdrawal from surface water bodies of Ukraine, is on the verge of an environmental disaster.
During the audit of the effectiveness of the implementation of the measures of the National Target Program for the Development of Water Management and Environmental Improvement of the Dnieper River Basin for the period up to 2021, 161 pollutants were found in the surface waters of the Dnieper River Basin. In particular, the herbicide atrazine, the metals cadmium, and nickel threaten the health of the Ukrainian population and may lead to an environmental disaster. Recent studies have found significant excesses in the content of synthetic substances: agricultural toxic chemicals, pharmaceuticals and substances used in perfumery (musk), heavy metals (zinc, copper, and mercury). The flowering of the Dnieper is the main reason for the massive pestilence of fish in the river.
An additional challenge for water treatment is the state of the reservoirs from which water intake is carried out. In particular, the quality of water in the Dnieper leaves much to be desired. The problems are related to the environment, with water bloom. This organic matter is supplied to water treatment and requires high costs to eliminate it. It is necessary to increase the volume of the reagent. The water is contaminated with pesticides and agrochemicals, wastes from the pharmaceutical industry, which enter the water intake with sewage.
Not paying much attention to the realities and blindly following a formal approach, the Ministry of Health has developed new sanitary requirements for drinking water, which were to enter into force on January 1, 2020. They introduce the most stringent European requirements. Due to a flurry of criticism from city water supply bodies, the requirements were delayed by two years. If nothing changes, the rules will start working on January 1, 2022.
"Most water utilities will not be able to meet these requirements. Miracles do not happen: for many years, without investing in the modernization of water utilities, water supply networks, you cannot get water with taste overnight, as in Germany. Germany only in the reconstruction of infrastructure, not to mention the investment in the operation. invests 7 billion euros annually, and the US - 120 billion dollars. In Ukraine, the total gross income of all water utilities barely reaches 1 billion euros per year," Shkin says.
In Ukraine, only 8% of the tariff is spent on the reconstruction of the water infrastructure, while in other countries - from 30 to 60% of the tariff funds, plus additional investments.
Tariffs for centralized water supply and sewerage services in Ukraine are at least 5 times lower than European ones.
National Commission for State Regulation of Energy and Public Utilities sets tariffs for 85% of cold water in Ukraine. In cities with a population of less than 100 thousand (15%) - by local governments. And, of course, neither the first nor the second are interested in raising tariffs for political reasons.
"Due to the insufficient level of funding for the programme's activities, there was no cardinal technical, financial and economic state of the water supply and sewerage enterprises, and, accordingly, the quality of water supply and sanitation services," the letter from the Ministry of Community and Territorial Development says.
If the strict norms of the Ministry of Health come into force on January 1, 2022, then in the absence of state support to ensure the modernization of water treatment facilities, according to experts from the Ukrainian Association of Water Supply and Sewerage Enterprises, it will be necessary to increase water supply tariffs at least tenfold - up to 5,5 USD per 1 cu. m. This is without taking into account the tariff for sewerage.
Without such a radical step, it will be impossible to carry out modernization, which will allow achieving the standards proposed by the Ministry of Health. According to experts, a large-scale reconstruction of the water treatment systems of the industry's enterprises will require at least 40 billion euros.
Without proper reconstruction, the water supplied by Ukrainian water utilities from January 1, 2022, in accordance with the new RSSR, will lose the right to be considered drinking and will be recognized as technical. This can lead to a catastrophe of an all-Ukrainian scale since the ranks of the water utilities will be forced to suspend the supply of water to the population.
"For small towns, this will be a disaster altogether. Ukraine has a law on drinking water, which states that water utilities must supply drinking water, that is, one that meets the requirements for drinking water. If de jure water becomes technical, this means that the water utility does not fulfill the requirements, which entails criminal liability. Accordingly, it will have to either risk and knowingly violate the law, or suspend the supply of water to the population, which will lead to disaster," Shkin assures.
As you know, the cold water that flows from our taps is used not only for cooking. We also wash with it in the shower and flush the toilet bowls.
City water supply agencies have been trying for several years to convince the Ministry of Health to abandon radical approaches.
The Ministry of Health does not support an approach that involves easing drinking water requirements. "The only way to provide the population with high-quality and safe water in sufficient quantities is the reconstruction of existing and construction of new drinking water supply enterprises, the introduction of new and improvement of existing water purification technologies, modern equipment, effective reagents, filter materials, and sorbents," the Ministry of Health said in an official letter.
However, there are still no answers to the questions of where to find the money so as not to radically increase the tariffs for cold water and to avoid a collapse in cities where water utilities will not be able to meet strict European requirements. It seems that the consumer will pay for everything anyway.