22 March – World Water and Baltic Sea Day

20.03.2014

On Tuesday, 22 March, Russia together with other countries celebrates the World Water and Baltic Sea Day. This year, World Water Day is held for the 21st time. Its main theme is Water and Energy. A celebration of the Baltic Sea this time coincides with the 40th anniversary of the signing of the Helsinki Convention.

The UN General Assembly designated 22 March as the World Water Day in December 1992. The decision to celebrate the Baltic Sea Day on 22 March was taken by the HELCOM countries still earlier – in 1986.

Each year, World Water Day highlights a specific theme related to water resources. For example, in 2013, World Water Day was devoted to Cooperation in the Field of Water Resources, in 2012, the main theme was the Protection of Water, in 2011 - Water for Cities, and in 2010 World Water Day was devoted to the theme Clean Water for the Health of the World.

The main festive events of the World Water Day are organized by the United Nations University (UNU) and UNIDO on behalf of UN-Water on March 20-21, 2014 and will be held at the headquarters of the UNU in Tokyo (Japan). On this occasion, the World Water Development Report 2014 dedicated to water and energy will be prepared, as well as the Best Practices Award of the edition of the Water for Life UN-Water will be given.

The full-flowing Neva River is the unique water source of St. Petersburg. Today, the city receives about 1.8 million cubic meters of drinking water per day. 98 % of this volume is supplied from the Neva, another 2% is from the underground springs. The process of turning the Neva water into drinking water is complex and multistage. Water should be clarified and disinfected, all the impurities and smell needs to be removed. SUE “Vodokanal of St. Petersburg” uses cutting edge technologies to supply St. Petersburg citizens with clean and safe water. In particular, drinking water disinfection in St. Petersburg includes both chemical (dosing of chemical agents- sodium hypochlorite and ammonium sulphate) and physical (ultraviolet treatment) methods.

Quality control of the water supplied to the city by 9 water treatment plants is carried out at 174 points (86 indicators) on a daily basis. Analyses are made in the independent Water Quality Control and Research Center. And the crayfish still monitors the quality of water entering the water intakes.

In St. Petersburg particular attention is given to wastewater treatment. Until 1978, wastewater in Leningrad (at that time - about 3.5 million cubic meters per day) was discharged into the Neva River and other rivers without any treatment, all the dirt appeared to be in the Gulf of Finland. Today, 98.4 % of the wastewater in St. Petersburg is treated. This was possible due to completion of the Northern Tunnel Collector in Autumn 2013. Enhanced phosphorus and nitrogen removal technologies are introduced at all St.Petersburg wastewater treatment plants, this allows the city to fully implement the recommendations of the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission.

Helsinki Commission - the Baltic Marine Environment Protection Commission (HELCOM) is the governing body of the Helsinki Convention. The first Convention on the Protection of the Marine Environment of the Baltic Sea Area (Helsinki Convention) was signed 40 years ago – on March 22, 1974 (new Helsinki Convention was signed in 1992 by all the states located on the shores of the Baltic Sea, as well as by the European Community). To celebrate the 40th anniversary of the signing of the first convention HELCOM organized a commemorative meeting which was held in Helsinki on March 5, 2014.

In recent years, cooperation of Vodokanal and HELCOM has reached a new level.

In 2013, Vodokanal of St. Petersburg and Helsinki Commission signed the Memorandum of Understanding aimed at supporting joint activities to improve the status of the Baltic Sea.

At the same time Vodokanal is actively working on the implementation of the HELCOM recommendations regarding the content of hazardous substances. In 2010, HELCOM Ministerial Declaration identified that the study of the effect of pharmaceuticals on population of the Baltic Sea biological organisms is required. Together with the organization “Ecology and Business” Vodokanal of St. Petersburg started monitoring pharmaceuticals in treated wastewater at St. Petersburg WWTPs. These pharmaceuticals are Diclofenac (anti-inflammatory and analgesic remedy) and Ethinyl Estradiol (synthetic estrogen). These very medications are registered to have negative impact on the Baltic Sea bioorganisms.

Another new Vodokanal’s activity is related to removal microplastics from wastewater. For this purpose tertiary wastewater treatment systems are planned to be introduced at all wastewater treatment plants.

Nevertheless, the effect of the work done in St. Petersburg may be much less than it could be, if the whole water system of the North-Western Region is not put in order. This unified water system includes the Onega Lake, the Lake Ilmen, the Ladoga Lake and the Neva River.

At the Baltic Sea Summit held in March 2013 the St. Petersburg initiative was announced that includes commitments of the stakeholders to preserve the aquatic system of the North-West Region. In particular, Vodokanal St. Petersburg is involved in surveying the areas where sources negatively affecting water bodies should be localized.  Based upon results of such a survey Vodokanal can give recommendations on the implementation of effective measures to improve the environmental situation and develop mechanisms for attracting investments.  

In 2014,  which by the decision of the three countries – Russia, Finland and Estonia was announced as the Gulf of Finland Year -  all these efforts have  got new impetus.  From the Russian side the Gulf of Finland Year is under the patronage of the President of the Russian Federation Vladimir Putin, from the Finnish side this project is being administered by the President of the Republic of Finland Sauli Niinistö, and from the Estonian side –  by the President of the Republic of Estonia Thoomas Ilves. 

The opening ceremony  of the Gulf of Finland Year was held in Helsinki on 21 January, 2014 (during  the ceremony a lot of speakers noted the progress of Vodokanal St. Petersburg in preserving the Baltic Sea).

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