Illustrative photo – Russian soldiers patrol the Kachovské hydroelectric dam in May 2022.
Kyiv – The water level in the massive Kakhovka dam in the south of Ukraine has fallen sharply since autumn to the lowest value in the last 30 years, and the Russian occupiers, who hold the dam near the town of Nova Kakhovka, are apparently behind this. It was written today by the American public radio station NPR, which is based on satellite records and expert statements. According to the article, the development threatens the supply of drinking water, agriculture and the operation of the Zaporizhia Nuclear Power Plant.
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Kachov Dam is the last link of the cascade on the Ukrainian course of the Dnieper River and covers hundreds of square kilometers in the Zaporozhye, Dnepropetrovsk and Kherson regions. The lake is a source of drinking water for hundreds of thousands of inhabitants and for irrigation, and is also connected by a long canal to the Crimean peninsula, which Russia has occupied since 2014.
In past years, the water level has been relatively stable, but since the beginning of December it has dropped by more than one-tenth, NPR reports, citing satellite records. Images provided by commercial companies Planet and Maxar, in turn, reportedly show water pouring through the dam's sluice gates and banks exposed along the dam as a result of the water receding.
The Nová Kakhovka dam was targeted by Russian fire in November as the Russians retreated from of the right bank of the Dnieper during the counter-offensives of the Ukrainians. At the time, initial information spoke of serious damage to the dam, which raised concerns about a drop in the water level.
According to NPR, however, the floodgates appear to have remained functional, with the Russian occupiers soon opening them and letting the water flow out. Even before that, the Russians diverted water from the lake towards Crimea through the mentioned channel, which was cut off after the annexation of the peninsula in 2014. According to meteorologist David Helms, who has worked for the US government for decades, the Russians have apparently been using the Kachov Dam for several months to fill a network of Crimean reservoirs, which are now “full to the brim”.
“It's as effective as knocking out the power grid,” Helms speculated about the Russians' possible motive for releasing the dam. “It is very worrying,” said Swedish geographer Brian Kuns, who deals with agriculture in the south of Ukraine. However, he was not as sure as Helms about a possible Russian strategy, noting that most of the affected agricultural areas are in the occupied regions, which Moscow outwardly refers to as new parts of Russia.
In addition to agriculture, water from the dam is also used in the cooling system of the largest nuclear power plant in Europe. The Ukrainian military administration of the Zaporozhye region said this week that if the water level drops by about as much as it has since the beginning of the year, the cooling of the Zaporozhye power plant will be at risk. The International Atomic Energy Agency (IAEA) also commented on the matter last week, which is said to be aware of the potential risk. allowed him to continue,” said the head of the agency, Rafael Grossi.