Moldova: Analysis of transboundary management of the Dniester river basin (#425)

Dniester river basin is a transboundary basin shared by Moldova and Ukraine. Throughout the Soviet era, the water quality deteriorated severely. After the USSR was dissolved, a bilateral agreement was signed by Moldova and Ukraine on the joint use and protection of water resources. This cooperation framework is based on the contributions of network of local authorities. This case illustrates the importance of cooperation among all key stakeholders.


Dniester river basin is a transboundary basin shared by Moldova and Ukraine. The river basin is the fifth biggest in the Black sea region with the largest total area of the river basin in Moldova. Dniester River serves as a drinking water supply sources for main towns located on its banks including Chisinau, the capital town of Moldova. An estimated 2.7 million people live in the Moldavian part of the Dniester basin. 

The state of ecosystems significantly deteriorated during the Soviet era by intensive use of agrochemicals, uncontrolled water abstractions for different purposes, waste water discharges among others. As there were no international mechanisms and tools for management of the river basin, practices that existed for the management of the Dniester basin are still not sufficient and strengthening of transboundary cooperation is crucially important.

Moldova and Ukraine have both shown intentions for European integration as a main target of theirs policies. The environmental degradation of the Dniester River is made worse by the frozen Trans-Dniestrian conflict, which inter alia impacts negatively on the use of joint infrastructure for wastewater treatment.

The problem takes on transboundary dimensions as polluted water flows into Moldova from Ukraine and thereafter back into Ukraine again and is discharged into the Black Sea south-west of the city of Odessa.

Action taken

After the collapse of the Soviet Union a number of joint efforts with Ukraine were undertaken and an agreement on transboundary cooperation was signed and ratified. A bilateral agreement between the governments of Moldova and Ukraine on the “Joint Use and Protection of the Cross-Border Waters” was signed in 1994.

This cooperation framework is based on the contributions of network of local authorities, NGOS, academia and University communities, which ensured effective cooperation for implementing the IWRM principles in the basin.

Following the cooperative framework, the EU funded a project, an initiatives called “Neighbourhood policy” for promotion of the Ukraine – Moldova cooperation. A number of partners were involved contributing to the best EU water management practices in the region which increased the Moldova aspirations for EU.

In addition a number of educational and research projects funded by different national and international donors have been implemented providing valuable information to different levels of authorities on the state of environment in the region and also served as a basis for decision making process, development of joint planning strategies for the river basin.

Lessons learned

  • European integration aspirations of Moldova give a very good base for integration of the IWRM principles in the development of the planning documents and theirs further implementation in the Moldavian part of the Dniester basin.
  • Past frameworks (institutional, legislative) together with past assumptions for cooperation need further development in order to implement provisions of the achieved agreements on basin management in Moldova. This will help to contribute to the cooperation with Ukraine in the field of water management.
  • Technical and financial assistance from international and national institutions is a decisive issue to implement national and inter-governmental plans for management of the water resources in the basin.
  • Civil society, research and educational organizations give a valuable material for decision making process and provide a good basis for cooperation.
  • Institutional capacities of national institutions dealing with the water management have to be improved through regional and international cooperation, attraction of best practices in different sectors of economy to the region, expert and information exchanges.

Importance of the case for IWRM

Cooperation among stakeholders in the Moldavian part of the Dniester river basin is a key issue. Actually a number of new players appear in the basin and their institutional role is not well defined.

Raising awareness for the implementation of the planning IWRM documents is needed for development of new tools and mechanisms for attraction of the best water management practices to the region.

It also shows that strengthening of inter institutional cooperation with involvement of local authorities, civil society, academia and educational institutions could contribute to the improvement of the social and economic situation.

Photo credit: Dumitru Drumea