Following the collapse of the Kakhovka dam in southern Ukraine, newly-released satellite images appear to show one of Europe’s biggest reservoirs drying up – threatening Ukraine’s water supplies. The images appear to show that four canal networks have become disconnected from the reservoir, meaning that regions across the country will be cut off from the man-made water supply network.
When the dam collapsed, water levels in the reservoir dropped dramatically and continue to do so. The water, now flowing from the reservoir and into the Black Sea, previously flowed through Ukraine’s canal networks to provide water for both irrigation purposes and to supply drinking water to Ukrainian towns and cities. Ukraine’s southern and southwestern regions are expected to be most affected by the dam’s destruction. Russian-occupied Crimea could also be severely impacted.
News that four canal entrances have been impacted by the collapse of the dam was released by BBC Verify, the British news outlet’s independent fact checking body. According to a June 21 report, shallower parts of the reservoir quickly dried up first, revealing the original shape of the Dnipro River before the dam was constructed in 1956. Images now show that the reservoir, which previously held some 18 cubic kilometers of water, now only holds small pockets of water in what appear to be slowly drying lakes.
Experts say that the only solution to the problem in the long-term is to rebuild the dam, though there’s no telling how long the process would take – or if it could even begin before the conflict comes to an end. In the meantime, a lack of proper flood defenses could also put communities at risk, given that the dam also prevented dramatic variations in water levels further down the Dnipro River.
Ukraine Enduring water Contamination
As well as the dwindling water supply in Ukraine, those who still live in the country are experiencing major water contamination as a result of the dam collapse. According to the Ukrainian health ministry, at least 30% of samples taken from surface water in Odesa, Mykolaiv, and Kherson Oblasts are not safe.
In a statement published on June 19, the ministry said that Odesa faces the greatest threat, where the “most significant and constant excess of sanitary-chemical, microbiological and toxicological indicators are recorded.”
The statement described how surface water bodies in the regions now contain salmonella, E. coli, rotavirus, and helminth eggs and larvae. Ukrainian citizens are warned not to fish in the regions, warning that fish are likely to contain both infectious diseases and pathogens and no cooking methods can make them safe to consume.
Jack Buckby is 19FortyFive’s Breaking News Editor. He is a British author, counter-extremism researcher, and journalist based in New York. Reporting on the U.K., Europe, and the U.S., he works to analyze and understand left-wing and right-wing radicalization, and reports on Western governments’ approaches to the pressing issues of today. His books and research papers explore these themes and propose pragmatic solutions to our increasingly polarized society.