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Eastern Europe

Version 2016

General summary - Eastern Europe region

Introduction Geography, climate and population Economy, agriculture and food security
Water resources Water uses Irrigation Trends Legislative and Institutional framework
Environment and health Prospects Summary tables Main sources of information

Water uses

Water withdrawal by sector

Data on water withdrawal by sector refer to the gross quantity of water withdrawn annually for a given use. Table 8 presents the distribution of water withdrawal by country for the three large water-withdrawing sectors: agriculture (irrigation, livestock cleaning and watering, aquaculture), municipalities (including domestic) and industry (including water for cooling of thermoelectric plants). Although able to mobilize a significant portion of water hydropower, navigation, fishing, environment and leisure activities have a low rate of net water consumption. For this reason, they are not included in the calculation of the withdrawals but they do appear in the country profiles where information is available. As a far as hydropower is concerned, a rough estimate has been made on the evaporation from the artificial lakes that are created when building a dam, see the section below on “Evaporation losses from artificial lakes”. For most countries, data on water withdrawal could be obtained from national statistics although there is much uncertainty about the methods of computation.

Total annual water withdrawal for the Eastern Europe region is 81 024 million m³, which is 2.0 percent of world withdrawals (Table 8 and Table 20). The Russian Federation, with 61 000 million m³, has the highest withdrawal, accounting for 75 percent of the total. Latvia and Lithuania have the lowest withdrawal with 248 million m³, or 0.3 percent, and 631 million m³, or 6 percent, respectively of the total withdrawals in the region. Water withdrawal per inhabitant is 387 m³ per year, ranging from 126 m³ in Latvia to 1 310 m³ in Estonia.

About 58 percent of inventoried withdrawal is water withdrawn by the industrial sector, which is much higher than the value for global industrial water withdrawal (19 percent) (Table 20). Industrial withdrawal accounts for the higher percentage of total water withdrawal in all countries except Belarus, where it represents 32 percent, and Latvia, where it represents 21 percent of the total (Table 8). The high figure for Estonia is related to the high figure for cooling of thermoelectric power plants (accounting for almost 90 percent of the industrial water withdrawal), provided by Estonia.

Agricultural water withdrawal accounts for 21 percent of total water withdrawal in the region. At country level it is relatively more significant in Belarus and Ukraine, accounting for 32 percent and 30 percent respectively of the total withdrawal in the country. In the other five countries agricultural water withdrawal varies from 20 percent in the Russian Federation to less than 1 percent in Estonia.

Municipal water withdrawal accounts for 21 percent of total water withdrawal in Eastern Europe, varying from 4 percent in Estonia to 64 percent in Latvia. Municipal water withdrawal per inhabitant is 80 m³/year or 220 litres/day for the region as a whole, with variations between countries from 36 m³/year or 98 litres/day in the Republic of Moldova to 86 m³/year or 236 litres/day in the Russian Federation.

Water withdrawal by source and pressure on renewable freshwater resources

Data for water withdrawal by source refer to the gross quantity of water withdrawn annually from all possible sources, such as primary freshwater, secondary freshwater (wastewater and agricultural drainage water returned to the system), direct use of treated wastewater and agricultural drainage water and desalinated water produced. Table 9 presents the distribution of water withdrawal by country. For most countries, methods used for calculation or the measurements for obtaining the values of the withdrawal by source are not specified. For countries for which recent data were unavailable, or were considered unreliable, estimations took into account total water withdrawal by sector, given that total water withdrawal by source and total water withdrawal by sector must be equal.

Primary and secondary freshwater withdrawal accounts for 81 007 million m³, which is 2.1 percent of global freshwater withdrawal (Table 9 and Table 20). This represents 99.98 percent of total water withdrawal in the region. Direct use of treated wastewater is estimated at 17 million m³ or 0.02 percent of total withdrawal in the region, of which Latvia accounts for 12 million m³ and Lithuania for 5 million m³. However, the other countries could also engage in direct use of wastewater, but no information is available. There are also no figures available on direct use of agricultural drainage water or desalinated water.

In many cases it is not possible to make a distinction between the use of (un)treated wastewater and agricultural drainage water. These two sources are usually mixed before reusing. Moreover, it is not always clear from the statistics whether agricultural drainage water is considered as secondary surface water or as non-conventional water. Sometimes no distinction is made between wastewater and agricultural drainage water directly used and the part returned to the system (secondary freshwater) and just a total is given, even though the actual use of secondary freshwater is impossible to estimate, since primary and secondary freshwater are mixed together.

Considering only primary and secondary freshwater withdrawal, surface water withdrawal represents 77 percent of freshwater withdrawal and groundwater represents 23 percent, but there are differences depending on the country. In Estonia, Ukraine and Lithuania, surface water amounts to 88, 80 and 72 percent of total freshwater withdrawal respectively, while in Belarus and Latvia it accounts for 44 and 36 percent respectively. There are no data available for the Republic of Moldova and the Russian Federation (Table 9).

In the "Water resources" chapter a very simple indicator for national water scarcity is given, which refers to the renewable freshwater resources per person. Water stress starts when the water available in a country drops below 1 700 m³/year or 4 600 litres/day per person. When the 1 000 m³/year or about 2 700 litres/day per person threshold is crossed, water scarcity is experienced. Another indicator defines countries as water-stressed if they withdraw more than 25 percent of their renewable freshwater resources, as approaching physical water scarcity when more than 60 percent is withdrawn, and as facing severe physical water scarcity when more than 75 percent is withdrawn. Using these thresholds, none of the Eastern Europe countries faces any problem yet. Latvia, the Russian Federation, Belarus and Lithuania stand out with values lower than 3 percent, the Republic of Moldova and Ukraine account for 9 percent and Estonia has the highest value accounting for 13 percent (Table 9). However, there can be huge differences within countries and certain areas in a country may be faced with serious water scarcity issues.

Evaporation losses from artificial lakes

Evaporation from artificial lakes and reservoirs behind constructed dams is considered consumptive water use, since this evaporation would not occur if the dams had not been constructed to retain the water and thus create a surface water body from which water evaporates. This variable does thus not include evaporation from natural wetlands, natural lakes and rivers. A very rough estimate has been made on the evaporation from the artificial lakes in the region, giving a total of 21 750 million m³/year.

In theory this amount should be added to the data for water withdrawal. However, the information is still uncertain and a more in-depth study is needed to confirm and complete the information for the whole region. For more information, see AQUASTAT's Water uses page.


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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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