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Sound and independent information
on the environment

City of Five Seas

Nizhny Novgorod has a population of 1.3 million and is one of Russia’s most important industrial cities. Its process manufacturing plants are heavily reliant on water, supplied from the Volga River and one of its tributaries, the Oka. The region’s drinking water also comes from the Upper Volga Basin.

The water quantity over the past years has considerably decreased.

Gnidin Konstantin Sergeevich, Head of Upper Volga Basin Department of Federal Agency of Water Resources

During the past few decades the amount of water in the Volga Basin has gone from one extreme to the other. In the spring of 1979, 1994, 2006 and 2006, the river overflowed its banks, flooding hundreds of private houses.

Yet in the ‘low-flow’ months, water levels drop significantly, as shown by the number of new islands that have appeared and gutter-like rivulets instead of streams. The levels have sunk so low that the drinking water for local villages has at times been unsafe.

Shallower rivers also mean that there is less water available for process manufacturing, and that even the larger rivers like the Oka, Vetluga, and Sura are not deep enough for large freight and passenger vessels to pass along during the low flow months.

Intensive flooding, shallower rivers, increasingly frequent high winds and heavy snow and rainfall in the Upper Volga area, are all signs of climate change.

In the past, it was possible to forecast water levels more precisely, but in recent years constant adjustments have had to be made to ensure that the reservoirs are at the right level to provide sufficient supplies of water to industry, and enough good quality drinking water for local communities.

"It’s extremely important that all Russian regions as well as worldwide develop a number of scenarios for future developments." Alexander Ivanov, Assistant Professor, The Nizhny Novgorod State University of Architecture and Civil Engineering. 

New research and technology are needed to create a coordinated picture of what is happen-ing in the rivers across the region. For example, advanced automated stations are already being piloted to collect and process data that will help to forecast extreme events throughout the Upper Volga Basin.

A number of other solutions are being looked into, including the construction of a barrage-type spillway on the outskirts of the city, although residents’ opinions are divided as to whether or not to proceed with such a project.

Unfortunately, the region is suffering from a number of other economic problems, so reducing the risks of flooding and drought associated with climate change is often viewed as a lower priority often dependent on the availability of funds. However, given the changes al-ready occurring to such a fundamental resource as access to freshwater, tackling climate change is likely to end up being the highest priority for this region.

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European Environment Agency (EEA)
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Denmark
Phone: +45 3336 7100