Water Quality in Russia
During the final preparation stages for the 2014 Sochi Olympics, journalists covered the peculiar conditions of their and the athletes’ living quarters for the duration of the sporting event, including water quality in Russia.

A Chicago Tribune reporter posted a picture on social media of the warning near the sink of her hotel bathroom that read, “Do not use on your face because it contains something very dangerous.” Another reporter tweeted, “peach juice…oh wait, that’s water,” and many other reporters joined in on the spectacle.

However, what seemed entertaining for the press was and continues to be a harsh reality for Russians. Over 10 million people lack access to quality drinking water in Russia and 60 percent of the country’s population drinks water from contaminated wells.

Russian regulatory bodies report that between 35 percent and 60 percent of the country’s drinking water reserves do not meet sanitary standards. Forty percent of surface water and 17 percent of underground spring water are not safe enough to drink. Russian rivers and lakes contain pollution from agricultural and industrial waste in amounts that exceed all minimum standards.

The poor water quality in Russia is due to the “thousands of companies [that] have dumped dangerous chemicals into rivers and lakes, and these pollutants are inevitably absorbed into the human body through water and food,” according to Greenpeace. Waterborne illness as a result of such pollution behaviors contributes to the deaths of more than 3 million people every year — more deaths than those a war causes.

Greenpeace also reports that “companies are not adopting clean technologies, and the government is ineffectual when it comes to preventing criminals from poisoning the water.” However, many Russian companies have started to improve water quality, offering an increasing number of water purifying technologies.

Traditional water purification methods include ozonation, chlorination, UV treatment, ultrafiltration and electrolysis. The use of chlorine and ozone is dangerous because they are poisonous substances and the use of ultraviolet light is inefficient because it purifies water only near the source. Thus, the safest and most effective is electrolysis.

A team of former equipment suppliers to Russia’s largest energy company, Gazprom, and the Novosibirsk Institute of Mining have created and implemented a new water purification system called the Aquifer. The system uses electrolysis to kill bacteria and stirs the water intensively to give it more oxygen. Because the system has no moving parts, the Aquifer will improve the water quality in Russia while reducing energy consumption.

Experts predict that the demand for water supply will exceed the global supply by more than 50 percent by 2025 if there is no improvement in access to quality drinking water. Sustainable solutions like the Aquifer give hope to reversing the trend.

Ashley Leon

Photo: Flickr

russia cuts off gas
On June 16, 2014, tensions between Russia and Ukraine worsened after Russia’s state-owned company, Gazprom, cut off gas headed for Ukraine.

June 16 was the final day for Russia and Ukraine to come to an agreement about the gas dispute. Representatives from Ukraine, Russia and the European Union met over the weekend but were unable to reach an agreement.

With no agreement about the unpaid $2 billion debt installment the company demanded for June 16, a portion of the $4.5 billion total debt that Ukraine owes the company led Gazprom to declare that  it will only deliver gas that has already been paid for.

Ukraine disputes the amount that Gazprom has stated it owes and also requests a new future price.

The main cause for the dispute can be traced back to the conflict between Ukraine and Russia that led to an 80 percent price increase of gas, reaching $485.50 per thousand cubic meters of gas in April. Although some reductions were made following recent talks, they were still above the average $377.50 per thousand cubic meters Gazprom charged other European countries in 2013, and more still than the previous $268 per thousand cubic meters Ukraine used to pay.

Russia has stated that it will continue to provide oil for the rest of Europe. More than 30 percent of Europe’s demand is supplied by Russia, of which half must pass through Ukraine.

Since the cut off has occurred in June, the vulnerability of Ukraine and the rest of Europe to a possible shortage are low. However, as the cut off continues, the urgency to find a resolution increases. When July comes around, Ukraine and the rest of Europe generally begin to completely fill their storage tanks in preparation for the winter.

Tensions between Ukraine and Russia have continued to increase in the backdrop of the failed deal. In addition to escalating violence in Ukraine, Gazprom has attracted controversy with its decision to build an exclusive gas route despite violating Europe’s open access laws.

With the continuing escalation, it is unlikely a resolution to the gas crisis will occur in the near future. Although E.U. leaders are expected to discuss the crisis during the summit in Brussels on June 26, the E.U. has told its members to conduct stress tests to examine the potential effects of a disruption.

A potential disruption could bode poorly for those in poverty throughout Europe, especially in the winter months. Hopefully an agreement will emerge before the cold comes.

— William Ying 

Sources: CNN, New York Times, The Wall Street Journal, BBC
Photo: CNBC