World’s largest permafrost city to get clean drinking water

By Richard Wallis

A 13-year EBRD loan of up to 2.1 billion roubles (around €51 million) will help raise drinking water in the East Siberian city of Yakutsk to EU and Russian standards thanks to the planned modernisation of the local water supply whose problems have reached a critical level.

The project to build the city’s first dedicated treatment plant for drinking water and a new reservoir has been forced on Yakutsk by changes in the course of the local Lena river -- the sole source of the city’s water -- as well as by the Lena’s reduced depth. Similar changes now affect an increasing number of Siberian rivers.

The EBRD has a solid track record in supporting the renewal of the municipal water sector in Russia. Of the over €930 million in total funding provided by the Bank for municipal and environmental infrastructure in Russia so far, nearly €420 million has been earmarked for 21 water projects.

The Yakutsk loan is the largest water project the EBRD has financed in Russia to date.

Yakutsk has a population of 270,000 and is known as the world’s largest city located in the permafrost zone. Severe climate conditions significantly increase the cost of operating its water supply and treating wastewater.

During the long Siberian winter, its drinking water has to be heated before being pumped through the distribution system in order to stop water pipes from freezing. Similarly, hot water has to be injected into the sewer pipes to make the treatment of wastewater possible despite arctic temperatures.

Like many Russian cities, Yakutsk’s existing water facilities, built largely from the 1950s to the 1970s, can no longer meet the growing demands of the local industrial and residential sectors, hence the decision to renovate these municipal assets.

A separate EBRD project will help increase the energy efficiency of Yakutsk’s wastewater treatment plant, including through the modernisation of wastewater pumping stations.