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Improving the Water Quality in Serbia

In May 2014, Serbia experienced the heaviest rain it had seen in a century, according to UNICEF data. This caused flooding that affected 1.6 million people and significantly damaged 1,800 buildings, while also significantly affecting the water quality in Serbia. It took UNICEF 10 days to assess the damages caused by the flooding and in the wake of the emergency it provided 5,000 blankets and hygiene kits and worked with the Serbian government to determine how to rebuild the country after the floods.

The mass flooding has affected the drinking water so greatly that it will take years for Serbia to recover from the damage. According to Water and Wastewater International (WWI), only 37 percent of the total Serbian population has access to a sewage system.

In cities, 75 percent of people have access to sewer systems, which is 25 percent less than the average for European cities. In rural areas of Serbia, the data is even less promising. WWI estimates that there are 5,000 public water systems in rural areas that are not controlled for water quality and that there are many wells and other systems that are probably not documented at all. There are 300,000 private wells and only about 10 percent of them have sanitary protection, according to WWI.

The Ministry of Agriculture and Environmental Protection Agency in Serbia have set new standards for water quality and have implemented monitoring techniques. The agency samples the ground and surface water and then analyses it chemically, preparing data which will be added to a database on water quality that is updated periodically.

According to WWI, this action from the Serbian government will lead to great changes in the water quality in the country. WWI says that this change is already underway because although there are only 19 water treatment plants in Serbia, 11 more are going to be constructed. The U.N. has also become involved in preserving water quality in Serbia. It is working to create new regulations for the planning and execution of wastewater management by building on the Law on Water from 1991. The original law includes a plan for maintaining water quality but was never put into action.

Helen Barker

Photo: Flickr