Water supply and sanitation in Russia

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This article was written in 2010 with partial updates as of December 2013.

Russia: Water and Sanitation
Flag of Russia.svg
Water coverage (broad definition)
Sanitation coverage (broad definition)
Continuity of supply (%) continuous
Average urban water use (liter/capita/day) 248 liter (2004)[1]
Average urban water and sewer bill for 20m3
Share of household metering
Share of collected wastewater treated
Annual investment in WSS
Share of self-financing by utilities
Share of tax-financing
Share of internal debt financing
Share of foreign financing
Decentralization to municipalities Partial
National water and sanitation company No
Water and sanitation regulator No
Responsibility for policy setting Ministry of Natural Resources
Sector law Various laws
Number of urban service providers About 2,800
Number of rural service providers n/a

The total access to water supply and sanitation in Russia in 2004 was between 76 and 90 per cent, while the total water supply coverage was between 91 and 100 per cent.[2] The Russian municipal water supply system includes water inlets, pumping stations, water preparation and purification stations, water supply networks and water sanitation stations. There are approximately 40,000 water supply stations and 20,000 water sanitation stations. In addition, there are 4,876 local water supply networks with a total length of 463,000 km.[3] Approximately 70 per cent of drinking water supply comes from surface water and 30 per cent from groundwater. In 2004, water supply systems had a total capacity of 90 million cubic metres a day. The average residential water use was 248 litres per capita per day.[4] One fourth of the world’s fresh surface and groundwater is located in Russia. The water utilities sector is one of the largest industries in Russia serving the entire Russian population.

Legal framework[edit]

In 1995, the Russian government significantly improved the key document governing the water sector, Water Code of the Russian Federation. On April 22, 2005, the State Duma amended the Water Code to include norms regulating use, recovery and protection of water sources. The Code widens ownership over water sources allowing private ownership of isolated water areas. It also determines the principals on which use of water source agreements and water consumption fees should be based.

December 10th, 2004, the Federal Assembly passed a new law on Regulation of Tariffs in the Municipal Utility Sector, which is designed to reform the tariff system and make it economically viable. The law stipulates establishment of an independent body which will review and modify tariffs, as needed, on a regular basis.


The main asset owners (water utility owners) are local governments. Although there are a few cases where the federal government owns water supply and sanitation systems. Vodokanals are responsible for supplying drinking water and cleaning wastewater. Water quality is the responsibility of the Centers of Gossanepidemnadzor (State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance Centers). These Centers have specialized laboratories where regular tests of drinking water are conducted. In 95% of the municipalities both the water supply and the rights to water cleaning are on local hands and are managed by the so-called "Vodokanal".

The Russian municipal water supply system includes water inlets, pumping stations, water preparation and purification stations, water supply networks and water sanitation stations. There are more than 800 Vodokanals in Russia.

Service quality[edit]

Water purification station (two round towers) on the Volga waterfront in Kstovo

Water supply According to a 2004 UN report, in some cities and towns drinking water quality is poor. Typical of the majority of surface waters is the increase in the intensity of the bacterial and viral load, the poor functioning of wastewater treatment plants, the virtual absence of purified wastewater, and infringements of the rules governing the use of water in water protection zones. However, the requirements regarding the quality of drinking water have been made stricter. The relevant recommendations of the World Health Organization have been put into effect. New standards now determine the water treatment technology and the policy of organizations monitoring the quality of water at all stages from the time it leaves the water supply point until it reaches the consumer.[4]

Sanitation In 2002, the capacity of the wastewater treatment plants was 56.1 million cubic metres a day, which is more than twice the 1995 level. The length of the sewerage network was 118,000 km. The amount of wastewater passing through the plants in 2002 represents 86 per cent of wastewater emitted. Of this, only 28 per cent is treated in accordance with the established regulations, while the remainder is discharged, insufficiently treated, into rivers, lakes and the sea. 60 per cent of the wastewater treatment plants are overloaded and 38 per cent have been in operation for 25 to 30 years and need to be reconstructed. The deficit in the capacity of sewerage systems at present is more than 9 million cubic metres a day. 9,616 sewerage systems are in operation, but 44 towns (4 per cent) and 582 urban type settlements (27 per cent) still had no central sewerage system in 2002.[4]

Responsibility for service provision[edit]

In Russia, the federal law on local government stipulates that the organisation, maintenance, and development of municipal water supply and sanitation are responsibilities of local governments, although the central government retains ownership of a few systems (including Moscow and St. Petersburg).[5] 2004 In the majority of locations (95 percent) municipalities own both the water supply and sanitation properties and manage them as municipal unitary enterprises, or “vodokanals.” Vodokanals are responsible for supplying drinking water and cleaning wastewater.[3] Tariffs can be set by municipalities, and rose from 2000 because of economic growth, but there remains a chronic problem of unpaid bills.

Service provision by the private sector[edit]

Since 2003 there has been rapid growth in the introduction of private companies to take over the management and operations of water systems. By mid-2004 private Russian operators controlled about 50 large utilities and many other municipalities were negotiating with one private financial group or another. Operators do not usually become the owner of the assets, but take over under a lease, rent or concession arrangement running for 25–49 years. Concession contracts have been signed, for example, in Rostow and in the Krasnodar region. These contracts are not subject to competitive tendering or review by a federal or regional property committee - municipalities can simply announce their intention to hire an operator; there is no requirement for financial disclosure; and investment obligations are rarely clearly spelled out. There is a high risk of bankruptcy and exit by the private operator, especially as many of the companies have little or no experience in running water utilities, and in that case the liabilities will all fall on the municipality and/or central government. There are also dangers from the probability that private operators will use disconnection more freely as a method of gathering bills.[6]

In 2002, the Saint Petersburg utility signed a concession agreement for the Southwest wastewater treatment plant with a Swedish-Finnish consortium. Subsequently, the idea of a concession for the city's entire water and wastewater system was first floated in 2005. In paralle, a plan to bid out a Build-Operate-Transfer (BOT) contract for a water treatment plant was championed by the city governor Valentina Matvienko, but was abandoned in 2013. In the same year, the new city governor Georgy Poltavchenko announced plans to sign a 25-30 year concession agreement including investments of USD 3 billion. A tender is expected to be launched in 2014 "at the earliest". However, the concession may not be financially viable because Russian President Vladimir Putin has imposed a national water tariff freeze.[7]

Industrial waste[edit]

Until the early 1990s most industries managed to discharge wastewater without treatment since legislation lacked the teeth to penalise polluters. The federal government and local authorities have amended laws to impose stiff penalties for water polluters, charging industries for the use of natural resources such as fresh water, and offering credit facilities and benefits to those that implement environmental-friendly technologies and practices. This has provided an incentive for industries to implement their own water and wastewater treatment programs. Industries are emerging as an attractive end-user group for suppliers of water-treatment products.[8] The Federal Act on industrial waste and consumption was adopted by the State Duma of the Russian Federation in June 1996. This Act, which is a further development of the Act on environmental protection, sets out the State policy concerning the treatment of industrial waste and consumption. With a view to preventing environmental pollution and enhancing the effectiveness of the use of domestic and industrial waste, the Government of the Russian Federation, in decision No. 1098 of 13 September 1996, confirmed the special Federal Programme on waste.


  1. ^ Practicies of water resources management, water supply and sanitation in the Russian Federation
  2. ^ Russia -Water Supply and Sanitation Data for 1990 and 2004
  3. ^ a b Water & Waste Water Market Brief 2009
  5. ^ OECD: Guidelines for Performance-Based Contracts between Municipalities and Water Utilities in Eastern Europe, Caucasus and Central Asia (EECCA). Paris
  6. ^ Market Development Study: Strategies for Domestic Inputs in the Water Utility Management Markets of Eastern-Central Europe and Central Asia, 2004.
  7. ^ "Petersburg preps $3bn concession". Global Water Intelligence. December 2013. 
  8. ^ Water World Bulletin