Assessing the Damages and Needs in Ukraine’s Water Supply and Sanitation Sector: UN Report Highlights Urgent Reconstruction Efforts

An analysis of Ukraine’s water and sanitation sector damages according to the UN Report Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment: February 2022 – February 2023.

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An analysis of Ukraine’s water and sanitation sector damages according to the UN Report Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment: February 2022 – February 2023.

A recent report by the United Nations, “Rapid Damage and Needs Assessment: February 2022 – February 2023,” sheds light on the extensive damages suffered by Ukraine’s water supply and sanitation (WSS) sector since the start of the Russian invasion in 2022. The findings provide a comprehensive overview of the challenges faced by the country in delivering essential water services to its population. The report emphasizes the urgent need for reconstruction and recovery efforts to address the immense damage caused by the war.

Pre-War Context:

Before the invasion, Ukraine faced significant disparities in access to centralized piped water supply and wastewater collection and treatment services. Approximately 10 million people lacked access to safely managed water services, while 20 million people lacked access to centralized wastewater services. Furthermore, rural areas suffered from lower access rates compared to urban areas, exacerbating the inequalities.

Damage and Loss Assessment:

The report estimates the aggregate physical damage to the WSS sector at a staggering US$2.2 billion, with approximately US$0.9 billion incurred between June 2022 and February 2023 alone. The most affected regions include Kharkivska, Luhanska, Chernihivska, Kyivska, and Donetsk. These damages predominantly impacted critical infrastructure such as wastewater treatment plants, water supply and wastewater collection networks, and drinking water treatment facilities. Numerous water and wastewater pumping stations, vital for the functioning of the WSS systems, have also been damaged.

Losses in the sector are estimated at around US$7.5 billion, primarily driven by the reduction in water consumption due to population displacement and the temporary closure or reduction of water usage by industries. Furthermore, the collection rate of water service fees, especially in war-affected regions, significantly declined. Other economic losses include increased energy costs, fuel consumption, prices of materials and equipment, tariff deficits, water losses, and expenses related to chemical reagents, demolition, and debris management.

Reconstruction and Recovery Needs:

The report highlights the urgent need for short-term and medium- to long-term investments to restore and rebuild the damaged WSS infrastructure. In the short term, efforts should focus on maintaining basic water supply services, monitoring water quality and quantity, and gradually improving wastewater services. Continuous financial support from the national and local governments is essential to ensure the provision of basic WSS services, particularly in war-affected regions.

Medium- to long-term recovery requires a phased approach and comprehensive sector reforms. Investments of approximately US$3.3 billion will be necessary to meet the ambitious reconstruction goals. The reform agenda should include improving governance, enhancing regulation, diversifying funding options, and promoting private sector participation. Additionally, it is crucial to consider broader water challenges such as water resource availability, vulnerability to contamination, and climate change effects. The reconstruction process provides an opportunity to implement sustainable, innovative, and resilient solutions that align with international best practices.

Recommendations and Limitations:

The report identifies several limitations in data collection and stresses the need for further assessments to refine the needs analysis. It emphasizes the importance of establishing or strengthening institutions to harmonize work between the national and decentralized levels. Institutional and normative reforms must be implemented to ensure the sustainability of the newly developed infrastructure. These reforms should focus on capacity building, aggregation of utilities, regulation strengthening, and the inclusion of risk management mechanisms.