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Russian Federation

Water resources

Surface water and groundwater resources

Most of the freshwater resources of the Russian Federation are contained in the permafrost which covers the north of the European part and western Siberia, all central and eastern Siberia and almost all the far east region. These resources, as well as the glaciers in the Arctic islands, in the Ural mountains and in the mountains of southern Siberia, are of no practical use.

It is only possible to use the resources of rivers, lakes and groundwater. There are 120 000 rivers with a length of more than 10 km each. Their total length within the country equals 2.3 million km, their total discharge to the sea is estimated at almost 4 223.8 km³/year and to other countries at 25.4 km³/year. About 71 percent of the total area of the country drains towards the north into the Arctic Ocean, 14 percent towards the east into the Pacific Ocean and 10 percent towards the south into the Caspian Sea. The remaining 5 percent drains towards the southwest into the Black Sea and the Sea of Azov and towards the west into the Baltic Sea.

Of the total annual RSWR, estimated at 4 249.2 km³, 213.5 km³ come from neighbouring countries (Table 3). The remaining 4 035.7 km³ are generated inside the country of which 75.2 percent in the Arctic Ocean basin group, 14.9 percent in the Pacific Ocean basin group, 6.3 percent in the Caspian Sea basin group and 3.6 percent in the Black Sea and Baltic Sea basin group.

The rivers of the Russian Federation freeze for from one month in the southwest between the Caspian and the Black Sea, up to 8 months and longer in the northern part of Siberia and the far east region.

The internal renewable groundwater resources are estimated at 788 km³/year. This figure, however, does not include resources in the form of inland ice, glaciers and pergelisol (permafrost). For the regions of western and eastern Siberia alone, the quantity of ice of the arctic islands is estimated at 5 000 km³ and that of the mountain glaciers at 170 km³. The resources in the form of pergelisol are even larger. The overlap between surface water and groundwater resources has been estimated at 512 km³/year, which brings the total renewable water resources to 4 525 km³ (4 249+788-512) (Table 4).

Water resources in the Russian Federation are very unevenly distributed in relation to the population. The European part, where 80 percent of the country’s population and industry is concentrated, has just about 10 percent of total renewable water resources. The huge distances between the Siberian and European basins make it practically impossible to transfer water from Siberia to Europe. Transfer projects were considered in the past but encountered several problems, including environmental ones.

In 2011, produced municipal wastewater was estimated at 12 320 million m³.

Lakes and dams

There are about two million fresh- and saltwater lakes in the Russian Federation. The largest saltwater lake is the Caspian Sea, surrounded by the Russian Federation, Kazakhstan, Turkmenistan, the Islamic Republic of Iran and Azerbaijan. The largest freshwater lake is Lake Baikal, located entirely within the Russian Federation in the southeast of Siberia. With an area of 32 000 km², a mean depth of about 730 m and a maximum depth of 1 637 m it is the world’s largest and deepest lake. It contains around 23 000 km³ of water. The largest river flowing into Lake Baikal is the Selenge river, which annual flow of 58.75 km³ is about half of the total supply of all rivers flowing into the lake. The only river flowing out of Baikal lake is the Angara river, its mean annual runoff being about 60 km³.

Other important lakes in the country are Lake Ladoga with a capacity of 911 km³, Lake Onega with 292 km³ and Lake Khanka with 18.3 km³ (Circle of Blue, 2009; FSSS, 2015).

Dams have been constructed on most large rivers in the country, mainly for hydropower, but also for irrigation and water supply. There are more than 2 220 water reservoirs and ponds in use with the volume of each exceeding 1 million m³. All of them were constructed between 1926 and 1991. About 36 reservoirs exceed a capacity of 1 km³. Almost all of these dams contain hydroelectric power stations with a total capacity of about 50 624 MW (IHA, 2016).

The total capacity of reservoirs and ponds is 801 544 million m³. The largest reservoir in the country is the Bratsk reservoir in the Angara river with a total capacity of 169 000 million m³, followed by the Krasnoyarsk reservoir in the Yenisey river (73 300 million m³), the Zeya reservoir in the Zeya river (68 400 million m³), the Ust-Ilim reservoir in the Angara river (59 300 million m³) and the Kuibyshev reservoir in the Volga river (58 000 million m³).


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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