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In Belarus: Hot Water Year Round

The World Bank and its partners are improving the quality and reliability of water for people in Belarus

June 24, 2014

1.7 million

people across Belarus will benefit from the World Bank’s commitment to increasing access to water supply and wastewater services and its quality.

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It used to be the main topic of conversation in Borovukha, and a major source of frustration. Borovukha is a village of about 4,000 on the outskirts of Polotsk, a historic city in northern Belarus. And, until recently, the water supply was terrible. People couldn’t drink it; it often ran red from taps because of high iron content.

“I’ve been living in Borovukha since 1979 and until recently our community has lacked clean water. It’s been always on my mind – why can’t we have clean water?” asks Tamara Sadovnikova, a community leader with 60 years of public service.

Life is Different

Now, she does. With support from the World Bank’s US$60 million Water Supply and Sanitation Project, Tamara Sadovnikova’s water runs clean.  “And now we see Borovukha growing,” she says. “With clean water it has everything it takes to prosper.”

Water used to be the main topic of conversation in this village of Borovukha of about 4,000 on the outskirts of Polotsk. There wasn’t enough of it. What little there was, wasn’t constant, wasn’t clean, wasn’t hot.

Life is different, agrees Larisa Radchenko. “When we moved into our house in just a couple of years our bathtub became dirty and soiled, looking like it’s made of crude iron,” she says. “We had to store water and boil it all the times until recently – when our water became clean and clear and some specialists say we can drink it without even boiling.”

The Polotsk Water Utility has upgraded and modernized its water filtration and pump system. “We started construction work in October 2010, and in July 2011 we put the new water pumping unit into operation,” says Mikhail Olifer, the water utility’s senior engineer and acting director.

With support from the World Bank, the Polotsk water utility has modernized its system in Borovukha. A new pump provides a constant flow of water. It also saves money and reduces water loss.

The World Bank and the Housing and Utilities Ministry of the Republic of Belarus have agreed on additional funding for the project. Its expansion would mean cleaner water and better sanitation for thousands of Belarusians.

“Water Brings Life”

The repairs have led to a better quality water supply. Most importantly, iron content went down from about 2.4 mg a liter to 0.2-0.22 mg a liter, which makes the water safe to drink. The new system also saves energy and money. Since the renovation, the pumping station has just about halved its monthly energy use, and has cut water production costs by at least 9 per cent.  The improvements are good for the utility’s work force, too. “We have about 450 workers at the water utility, and their future depends on the future of our company. Water brings life. We can’t live without it,” Olifer says.

Polotsk’s officials are delighted with the change. “We can talk about economic benefits and energy efficiency improvements, but, to me, the key result is that we managed to resolve the problem people had: we gave them clean water of European quality,” says Vitaliy Urbanovich, the utility’s water supply coordinator.

This project underscores the World Bank’s commitment to increasing access to water supply and wastewater services and improving their quality to expected project beneficiaries of about 1.7 million people across Belarus. Now, after improvement to over 20 other towns and villages, the World Bank and the Ministry of Housing and Utilities of the Republic of Belarus have agreed on additional funding for the work, which would mean cleaner water and better sanitation for many thousands of Belarusians.