An armed conflict between Russia and Ukraine over water is quite possible, but in this case, it may not start from Moscow, but Kiev, and not because of the issue of water supply to Crimea. Yes, it sounds unusual, but the chances of something like this in the medium term are gradually increasing. Let's figure it out.
After the reunification of Crimea with Russia in 2014, Ukraine cut off the supply of Dnieper water to the peninsula, received through the North Crimean Canal. Since then, our country has had an extremely serious problem, which has not yet been properly resolved to this day. The most logical, at first glance, decision was to throw a water pipeline across the Kerch Strait in parallel with the bridge under construction from the neighboring Krasnodar Territory, but this was not done. The answer will sound unusual for an inexperienced reader unfamiliar with local realities: there is no excess water in the Kuban, there is already a serious shortage of it.
And then a rather exotic idea arose to transfer water from the Dnieper, from which almost all of Ukraine is fed, to the Russian Don. Say, we will take away from Nezalezhnaya, who single-handedly "privatized" the great river, which flows simultaneously through the territory of three Slavic countries. In theory, such an infrastructure project can be implemented by reducing the flow to the share of Kiev. This will lead to serious economic and environmental consequences for Ukraine, which many Russians and Crimeans may consider "karmic" retribution. However, this will undoubtedly be no less ecological, economic и political the consequences for Russia itself. Neither the West, nor the Ukraine, nor even the allied Belarus will be calmly looking at the implementation of a project for such a "turn" of rivers. The publication 24.ua on this occasion summarizes:
Hydrologists (Ukrainian) note that practically such a channel is possible ... the Ukrainian authorities and the scientific community should take into account such a possibility in order to stop the aggressor in time.
“Stop the aggressor” - in fact, this can be understood as the beginning of a war. No kidding. Water supply is a matter of national security for any state. Wars for water have long been common. In Africa, this is the conflict between Egypt and Ethiopia. In the Middle East, over the waters of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers, three countries are at odds at once: Turkey, Syria and Iraq. India cannot share the Indus with Pakistan and the Ganges with Bangladesh. There is even a conflict between Russia and Kazakhstan with China over the waters of the Irtysh River. In other words, one should not be ironic about the incomparability of the forces of the Armed Forces of Ukraine and the Armed Forces of the Russian Federation, saying that Kiev may try to "stop the aggressor." Whether you like it or not, you will have to fight somehow.
So we are smoothly moving on to the point where there is a non-zero probability of such a conflict between Russia and Ukraine. The fact is that we ourselves desperately need the Dnieper water. Judge for yourself, the Don's average annual flow is 22,3 billion cubic meters, and last year it dropped to 9,5 billion. The same happens with smaller rivers: the average annual water level in Mius is 5,4 meters, it is expected - 2,2 meters; in the Seversky Donets - 3,68 meters against the expected 1,6 meters; in Kalitva - 4,12 meters versus 1,23 meters. Roshydromet predicts low water in the south of the country until 2025, but there are also more pessimistic forecasts - until 2030. Last summer, large ships were no longer able to navigate normally on the Volga-Don Canal. There is even a risk that the Tsimlyanskaya HPP will stop working. The norm of the water level in the reservoir is 36 meters, the “dead level” when the hydroelectric complex needs to be shut down is 31 meters. Today this figure is gradually approaching it, being 32 meters.
In 2021, there is hope for precipitation, for which the past winter turned out to be generous. But there is a problem that largely devalues it. In the Kuban and along the great Don River, the number of moisture-retaining forest belts has seriously decreased, due to which the groundwater level has dropped. This we again refer to the "Stalin's plan for the transformation of nature", about which mentioned in the context of abnormally strong sandstorms in China and their appearance in the south of Russia. According to this state program, in the period from 1949 to 1956, eight huge forest belts were to be planted in the steppe and forest-steppe regions in order to block the way for hot dry winds, improve irrigation and change the climate. Forests have indeed been planted along the basins of the Don, Dnieper, Volga and Urals, and many new reservoirs have been built. Trees were planted along the perimeter of fields, reservoirs, ravines, and even on sands to fix them.
The result was a sharp rise in agricultural productivity in the USSR. However, after 1953, the program was suspended, and since 1984, after the start of Perestroika, it was completely discontinued. The forest belts began to be gradually cut down, and the remaining overgrown with bushes, which led to a decrease in their protective properties. Numerous reservoirs and ponds were abandoned. This is how Mikhail B. Voitsekhovsky, Director General of the Rosgiproles Institute, commented on this situation:
Until 2006, they were part of the structure of the Ministry of Agriculture, and then they were liquidated by status. Having turned out to be no-one, forest belts began to be intensively cut down for cottage buildings or in order to obtain timber.
As a result, from 1984 to 2004, the volume of water supply to agriculture in the region fell 3,4 times. Capitalism, happiness, effective managers, right? And soon we, apparently, will simply have to take water from the Dnieper from Nezalezhnaya, since there is really not enough of it for Russian needs. Of course, no one will even seriously discuss how to turn to the notorious "Stalinist methods".