NEURC Ukraine on the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station

Threats to ecology and to WSS caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station.

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Threats to ecology and to WSS caused by the destruction of the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station.

Around 02:35 on 6 June 2023, a destructive explosion occurred at the Kakhovka hydroelectric power station (hereinafter – HPP).

As reported by Ukrhydroenergo, significant damage was inflicted on the HPP, including the destruction of 16 dam gates, the HPP building, and the insert of an earthen dam between the HPP building and the lock and the administration building. The extent of the damage is irreparable, and the station cannot be restored.

The extent of the repercussions on the environment has not yet been estimated, but according to preliminary data, it is possible that this is the largest man-made ecological disaster in Europe in recent decades, which carries not only severe ecological, but also humanitarian, social and sanitary consequences.

More than 80 settlements in the south of Ukraine have been flooded, and tens of thousands of people are subject to evacuation.

On the left bank, flooding can reach deep into the territory up to several tens of kilometres. This will mean the flooding of all settlements located 2-2.5 km from the banks of the Dnipro River, including agricultural lands.

The destruction of the HPP may also severely damage the surrounding environment since more than 450 tons of engine oil in the station’s turbines and transformers, were poured into water after the explosion. In addition, a sudden reduction in the water levels of a large reservoir can lead to the death of a large number of fish, but also to waterlogging of drained lands and even changes in the climatic regime of the region.

Furthermore, the uncontrolled lowering of the reservoir level is a threat to the security of operations in the Zaporizhya nuclear power plant (ZNPP), since water from the Kakhovka reservoir is necessary for the plant to receive power for the turbine capacitors and safety systems of the ZNPP. Currently, the station cooling pond is full. The Ukrainian staff of ZNPP monitors all indicators.

From the perspective of the National Energy and Utilities Regulatory Commission (NEURC) of Ukraine, special attention should be paid to the impact of this disaster on the provision of centralized water supply and sewerage services to consumers in the South of Ukraine, meaning not only flooded settlements but also cities and villages, whose water supply was carried out from the waters of the Kakhovka reservoir.

This ecological catastrophe is the biggest challenge since martial law for the water supply and sewerage sector is in place in Ukraine. Only in the city of Kherson, the destruction of the Kakhovka HPP led to the flooding and blackout of 17 wells, 2 water intakes, 6 sewage pumping stations and other water supply and sewerage facilities. The city is being evacuated from coastal areas.

At the moment, the responsible State and local authorities, as well as relevant services, are taking all necessary measures to combat the consequences of the disaster. Emergency meetings are held to assess the situation; a plan including technical and organizational measures has been implemented.

An assessment of the possibility of water intake from the Kakhovka Reservoir is being carried out. An alternative option could be to provide the population with drinking water using underground sources, adapting other water pipes, laying pipes, creating new water intakes and pumping stations.

The possibility of using light floating pumping stations with equipment arranged inside, a pontoon designed for minimum visibility on the surface, and pipelines from them have been suggested. In addition, the transportation of imported drinking water is currently being organized to meet the needs of the population.

The Government of Ukraine adopted a resolution on the allocation of funds from the “Fund for Liquidation of the Consequences of Armed Aggression” for the implementation of an experimental project for the construction of main water pipelines in Karachuniv reservoir – Kryvyi Rih – Southern reservoir, Marganets – Nikopol, Khortytsia  – Tomakivka in order to eliminate the negative consequences of the destruction of Kakhovka HPP.

At the same time, the situation remains extremely difficult, there are risks of complete or partial cessation of drinking water supply to millions of people in the Dnipropetrovsk, Zaporizhia, Kherson and Mykolaiv as well as regions of the occupied Autonomous Republic of Crimea[1][2].

A strict water-saving regime was introduced in the region (consumers were urged to reduce water consumption by 30-40%).

Also, the readiness of international organizations and partners to join the solution of the problem of sustainable provision of drinking water supply to the population in critical conditions due to changes in the volume of water in the Kakhovka Reservoir is determined today. Cooperation with humanitarian organizations to provide first aid is being established as a matter of urgency.

[1] Following the UN General Assembly Resolution of 27 March 2014, calling upon States Not to Recognize Changes in Status of Crimea Region (