Ukraine: Sustainable Rural Development; Demonstrating solutions for water supply, sanitation and agriculture (#361)

In Ukraine, reforms in the sector of water supply and sanitation have focused on centralising water supply and sanitation. Efforts have been made to decentralise water management, delegate to local authorities as well as increase supply in rural areas. This has been done through awareness campaigns, capacity building and innovative techniques of wastewater reuse. The key lesson learnt from this case is that IWRM principles need to be considered when planning for water infrastructure. 


In Ukraine, reforms in the sector of water supply and sanitation were initiated more than 10 years ago. They resulted in substantial changes, including decentralization of water management functions, delegation of infrastructure management functions and responsibilities to local authorities, development of underlying laws and regulations in the sphere of drinking water supply. 

However, all these reforms and actions are predominantly focused on centralized water supply and sanitation and users of these centralized systems. Small towns and rural settlements do not attract adequate attention of governmental authorities and reforms in the sector. As a result, 5.7 million urban residents and 11.7 million rural residents use drinking water from local sources, including shallow wells, captages, springs etc.

It is worth to note that in the majority of cases these sources are of inadequate technical conditions. Statistics of 2004 show that about 22% of wastewaters are discharged without treatment, 37% undergo primary treatment prior to discharge to surface water bodies and 41% undergo primary and secondary treatment.

Action taken

Since 2000, in the course of implementation of its campaign “Drinking Water in Ukraine”, Ukrainian NGO MAMA-86 studied problems of decentralized water supply, in particular, the problem of quality of well water in rural settlements of Poltavska, Chernigivska and Ivano-Frankivska oblasts.

In November 2003, in partnership with Women in Europe for a Common Future (WECF), MAMA-86 launched its project “Co-operation for Sustainable Rural Development: Drinking Water Supply, Eco-sanitation, and Organic Agriculture”. The project was implemented for 3 years and was supported by MATRA Program of the Dutch Ministry of Foreign Affairs.

The project implementation activities focused on three inter-related spheres:
• drinking water supply;
• eco-sanitation;
• organic agriculture.


The project activities ranged from public awareness campaigns, strengthening of community capacity to seek for sustainable alternatives in use and disposal of wastewater and infrastructure measures that were implemented in 3 pilot regions. Each of these regions focused on the same environmental and health problems, however, specific approaches and methods were applied. 

This case study analyses of conditions, show results and points out limitations in three main areas of intervention:
- improvement of well water quality in rural villages
- eco-sanitation techniques applied in local schools and townships
- implementation of organic agriculture in pilot farms.

Lessons learned

This study illustrates that IWRM principles need to be considered when planning for water infrastructure: overall water cycle from withdrawal to safe wastewater disposal was studied and various technical measures were implemented. The study has a high relevance in rural and less economically developed areas that are beyond the interest of governmental or private investments. 

Photo credit: Alex Malev