In Ukraine: Fixing an Old City’s Old Water System

October 7, 2014

Age might be good for paintings, wine and violins; it even spreads a patina of beauty over an ancient landscape. But age isn’t much good for a water supply system, and Chernihiv, one of Ukraine’s oldest cities, boasts a water company that is 130 years old. Chernihiv’s water supply system is both vast and decaying. Its network stretches for over 500 kilometers.

The combination of size and age made improving the system a top priority.

“First of all, we needed to replace our pumping equipment, as it is 30-40 years old. As a result, it wasted energy, it was unreliable and we had to act quickly to restore Chernihiv’s water supplies,” says Sergiy Kotsur, a Water Supply System’s chief engineer.


With World Bank support, the Chernihiv water utility renewed its car fleet by adding 19 specialized vehicles. This helps in performing digging works and eliminating water leaks in the network.

Photo: Sergiy Grytsenko / World Bank

Money for investment and for refurbishment of the water system is scarce, and has been for years. Replacement systems are expensive and Chernihiv’s water supply and solid waste systems, as well as the city’s wastewater treatment plants, were energy inefficient and not up to modern health standards.

Patching the Patches

So, after years of patching, the Chernihiv water company’s management realized that the system simply required major work. The city’s system became one of 14 water utilities across Ukraine to get nearly US$22.8 million from the World Bank for key improvements.

" We’ve halved the number of water leaks and reduced energy consumption by at least 40%. All this allows us to make ends meet under the continuing pressures of growing costs for repairs and especially fuel costs. "

Oleksandr Shkin

Director of the Chernihiv-VodoKanal's water supply system


To monitor the water quality, Chernihiv-VodoKanal equipped a new chemical lab. The lab’s specialists perform about 800 water tests a month – and they even receive water test requests from other cities.

Photo: Sergiy Grytsenko / World Bank

Repairs and improvements include basic infrastructure to keep the city's water clean and flowing smoothly. “During the project implementation, we replaced pumps at 55 artesian wells. We completed the reconstruction of four pumping stations, fitting them with energy saving equipment,” says Sergiy Kotsur.

Chernihiv gets its water from 97 artesian wells. 39 of these wells are over 700 meters deep; they provide about 70 percent of the total water supply. When the modernization is finished, the company hopes to tap 100 percent of that deep well water. And the farther the company drills for water, officials say, the cleaner and purer it will be.


Efficiency improvements at 4 pumping stations across Chernihiv considerably increased the quality and reliability of water services. The company halved the number of water leaks and reduced energy consumption by at least 40 percent.

Photo: Sergiy Grytsenko / World Bank

With the World Bank’s support, Chernihiv’s engineers now have a new modern lab to monitor water quality. The lab’s specialists perform about 800 bacterial and chemical water tests a month. Because the lab is so up-to-date, Chernihiv’s engineers even receive water test requests from other cities, which is a source of some city pride.

“Thanks to our joint project with the World Bank, we are a leader among water utilities in Ukraine and we can be compared to similar enterprises in Europe in line with a number of benchmarking indicators,” boasts Oleksandr Shkin, the system’s director. 

Support from Waiters and Students

Clean water is crucial for the city’s schools and its students. “One problem is clean water for our city. Getting money is another problem. One has to know how to attract money and one has to know how to effectively use it, something that our local communal enterprise is doing today,” says Tamara Kasatkina, the principal of Chernihiv’s School No. 2.

And the city’s residents and business people say they like the changes as well. “We are pleased with our water,” says Ruslana Kovalenko, who manages a café. “Lately, we have no problems at all, but a very good flow and outstanding quality. All this means a lot for us as a restaurant. And it leaves our customers happy with the quality of our food and drinks.”

Clean water matters. Stately old age is important, too, but not for a water supply system. Now the 300,000 residents of this city can live with the old and drink from the new.

less water leaks at 4 pumping stations across Chernihiv has considerably increased the quality and reliability of water services.
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