Under Russia, Crimea’s Future Grows Dimmer -- and Drier

Feb 24, 2020 | 09:00 GMT

This photo shows a dry irrigation canal in Crimea.

An irrigation canal in Crimea runs dry without access to the North Crimean Canal. Russia’s annexation in 2014 has since severed the peninsula’s access to crucial Ukrainian water flows.



  • Crimea has suffered increasingly greater water scarcity since the Russian annexation led Ukraine to suspend access to the North Crimean Canal in 2014. 
  • With Ukraine unwilling to reopen crucial water flows, Russia’s only options to permanently fix Crimea's water shortages and sustain economic activity over the long term would require costly infrastructure projects. 
  • Even if Moscow foregoes a massive overhaul, it could still use Crimea use as a military bastion, though it would mean sacrificing the peninsula’s agricultural contribution to Russian exports.

Water scarcity is quickly dimming Russia's hopes for economic growth on the Crimean Peninsula. Reservoirs throughout the region are at record lows for this time of year, with only a few months of reserves left to cover the Crimean population's daily consumption. But while an unusually dry winter is partially to blame, Russia's annexation has been at the core of Crimean water woes by prompting Ukraine to close off the North Crimean Canal in 2014.  Without access to external fresh water resources, permanent relief for the peninsula can be obtained only by either desalinating water from the Black Sea, or by building pipelines to feed water from Russia's Kuban River directly into Crimea. But unless Moscow coughs up the capital needed to fund such costly infrastructure projects, Crimea risks becoming a mostly barren military bastion as its industries, agricultural lands and population shrivel alongside its water reserves....

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