BISHKEK, January 31 (TCA) — According to the United Nations, Denmark (due to Greenland) and Iceland have the most substantial water reserves per capita in the world. Kyrgyzstan is not included in the list of even the top ten countries. At the current rate of water consumption, according to scientists, Kyrgyzstan will face a lack of water in the next 25 years.
With increasing water consumption, the amount of drainage and surface water generated by use in various industries and the supply of domestic needs increases as well. This causes the pollution of natural reservoirs and groundwater.
There is one solution – to use water recycling. This way water, after it has been cleaned through a technological process, can be used for a variety of purposes.
Water recycling and reuse not only helps to prevent environmental pollution but also saves substantial reserves of drinking water. For example, in 1991, the volume of water consumption for industrial purposes in Kyrgyzstan totaled 674 million cubic meters, and the amount of water which was recycled for reuse was 380 million cubic meters. In Soviet times, all industrial plants in Kyrgyzstan used recycled water.
According to Kyrgyzstan’s National Statistics Committee, since 1998, there is not any data on the amount of recycled and reused water in the statistical reports. In general, water consumption for industrial needs was reduced to 91 million cubic meters.
“One cubic meter of contaminated wastewater contaminates at least 8-10 cubic meters of natural drinking waters,” said Taisiya Neronova, an expert. “Thus, it is important both to purify the water and to reduce the amount of waste water. In Soviet times, there was strict rationing of water consumption per unit of product in order to limit water use and wastewater discharge for each company. Penalties were imposed for exceeding the limits, but there were essential benefits from the rational use of water.”
Today the treatment plants are overloaded due to the increasing water demand. In Soviet times many of them were designed for much lower workloads, and since that time they have not been renovated, and therefore they are in a critical condition.
According to Karypbek Minbayev, the chief specialist on environmental protection of the Issyk-Kul and Naryn oblasts, today the treatment facilities of all of Kyrgyzstan’s cities are in urgent need of reconstruction, and the cities themselves need new sources of water because, due to recent drought years, the level of groundwater is falling lower. Currently, the depth of wells has reached 20-30 meters, which requires more financial expenses for their maintenance.
Taalaibek Makeyev, executive director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia, said: “We are talking about the lack of water, whereas 17 billion cubic meters of reusable water, which is comparable with the Toktogul reservoir (19 billion cubic meters), is not used in the region every year. This is ridiculous. During 21 years of independence, irrigation facilities in Central Asian states have not been renovated, the water supply system is in a poor condition, we have inadequate legislation, and solutions have been adopted hastily. We need market mechanisms. Only if we set the price for every liter of water will people start using water more rationally.”
Ilya Domashov, an ecologist, said: “We must learn to save water. Firstly, we have very few treatment facilities and they are all of low quality. Secondly, we practically do not reuse sewer water, whereas the necessary technology has been used throughout the world for a long time. And, most importantly, it is necessary to change the attitude of Kyrgyz residents to water and to apply the European experience of rational water management. In particular, we could install water meters in every household (almost all legal entities have water meters in their offices, whereas only 10% of the population have meters at home).”
Country Director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia, Bakytbek Satybekov, said: “Kyrgyzstan pays little attention to the problem of saving water. Today, it is more profitable for businesses to pay for water use than for the electricity consumed by the equipment to operate the recycling facilities.”
The European Union and Central Asian countries are now cooperating in raising awareness of reused water to fill the gaps in the management of water resources, and support regional pilot projects in Central Asia. Their joint project on reusable water will be implemented until the end of 2013. Country profiles on reusable water in Central Asia have already been prepared.
Henry Wyes, deputy executive director of the Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia, said: “Today, the EU is mainly focused on addressing water issues, especially water quality issues. The situation in Kyrgyzstan’s recreational tourism and agriculture is particularly deplorable. The sewage treatment system at Lake Issyk-Kul resorts is in a poor condition; irrigation water runs directly into the lake. To save it, it is necessary not only to provide tax benefits to farmers, but also encourage them to take care about the purity of water. Also, those who make decisions have to decide and choose either long- or short-term goals.”
Photo: A Soviet-era waste water treatment facility at Lake Issyk-Kul (by Irina Bairamukova)