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North Crimean Canal

The North Crimean Canal, built after Crimea became part of the Ukrainian SSR in 1954, made it possible to transform the peninsula’s salt marshes and steppe into fertile land. Up until 2014, the 400-kilometer-long canal brought water from the Dnipro River to Crimea, meeting over 80% of the peninsula’s fresh water needs. Crimea is drying out. After Russia’s illegal annexation of Crimea, Ukrainian authorities greatly reduced the water supply to the occupied peninsula. In May 2014, citing an outstanding debt on water supplied, Ukraine built a temporary dam in the Kherson region, which borders Crimea. In 2017, this dam became permanent.

In mid-July 2018, Ukraine’s Ministry of Temporarily Occupied Territories and IDPs published the results of a remote sensing probe showing the amount of live green vegetation on the peninsula, confirming that Crimea’s ecosystem is quickly changing due to lack of water. These are reversible processes, but the more time passes, the soil and groundwater become more saline, consequently the more time it will take to restore them. Roughly speaking, Crimea is surrounded by salty water. Intensive extraction of fresh water leads to its replacement by salty water. The amount of precipitation is not enough to ensure a natural replenishment of groundwater resources.

Doctor of Agricultural Sciences, academician-secretary of the plant department of the National Academy of Agrarian Sciences of Ukraine Oleksandr Ivashchenko states that the use of fresh water from underground wells for irrigation of rural crops in the annexed Crimea leads to disturbance of water balance and salinity of the soil. He told about this on July 13 on Radio Crimea . Realia .

"If we say that there is currently no fresh water in the Crimea, then, not only because of the lack of watering, it is first of all - a deterioration of the water balance of groundwater. Because continuously infiltrated water fed the soil horizons with water and provided fresh water on a vast territory. The fact that we are actively doing wells today and trying to take water from the wells for irrigation upwards, the situation with water balance in the Crimea dramatically worsens, because the empty space is filled with salty water and saltines will then be pushed out of there, then it will be practically impossible, "- noted he.

The main water source - the Dnipro river - is on Ukrainian controlled territory and now out of reach for Russian-installed authorities. According to specialists, Crimea’s local water sources cover only 15% of demand. If there are no big droughts in the coming future, the drilling of new wells might help to ease the Crimean drinking water shortage. However, the northern regions of the peninsula have already felt the first signs of a water crisis.

The idea of delivering fresh water from the Dnipro to Crimea is more than 150 years old and was first expressed by the founder of Nikitsky Botanical Garden, Christian Steven. It is one of the oldest botanical gardens in Europe and is located in Crimea, not far from Yalta. The solution was called to end regular droughts and famines that happened on the peninsula in dry years. However, the project was materialized only after Crimea was transferred to the Ukrainian Soviet authorities in the 1950s. Prior to the annexation, 85% of Crimea’s water needed for irrigation and local factories was covered by the canal water. The canal was pumping over a billion cubic meters of water per year.

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