In November 2022, Ukraine’s capital city of Kyiv went dark as Russian forces bombed critical infrastructure. A missile strike disabled the pumps that drive the city’s water, leaving many residents without running water and wastewater services for 48 hours. “It was the most terrifying time,” recalled Serfiy Stelmakh, chief engineer of the Kyiv’s water and sanitation provider, or Vodokanal.
But the people of Kyiv knew that showing fear or weakness “was not an option,” said Dmytro Novytskyi, head of Ukraine's Vodokanal Association. “We looked to other cities. Sumy, which continued to work under siege. Chernihiv, bombarded every hour, from which the director of their largest pumping station, when the station was destroyed, himself got behind the wheel of a truck, took a huge container of water, and delivered it straight to the citizens so they could at least have some water in their homes.”
In spring 2022, USAID looked forward to the coming winter. If the war lasted that long, it would be likely that Russia’s forces would use winter as a weapon of war, attacking critical infrastructure to deprive Ukrainians of the heat, energy, and water needed to survive. In the summer of 2022, USAID and its partners began providing generators to Ukraine’s Vodokanals (water and sewage utilities) so that they could continue to provide water, even during blackouts.
To date, USAID’s development and humanitarian partners have delivered close to 4,000 generators across Ukraine to help provide power to vital services. These generators are placed in key locations, such as health facilities and densely populated areas, to ensure that the largest numbers of vulnerable Ukrainians have access to life-saving water, heat, and healthcare.
USAID’s efforts to support the Ukrainian government as it secures access to safe and sustainable drinking water and sanitation services for its people also include the rehabilitation of water supply networks and the delivery of life-saving humanitarian assistance.
In June 2023, the destruction of the Kakhovka Dam deprived one million people of access to safe drinking water. Communities and farms that had drawn water from the Kakhovka reservoir no longer had access to safe drinking water, and the water stores that did remain were contaminated by raw sewage and other hazards. USAID quickly mobilized. USAID-supported communities sent water cisterns and other USAID-procured equipment to assist others in affected regions. USAID sent six tanker trucks to deliver water to communities cut off from supplies and delivered more than 450 trailer sewage and floating motor pumps to help manage floodwater. USAID also partnered with the Ukrainian NGO Union and the Ukrainian company Ecosoft, which specializes in innovative water solutions, to deliver a large mobile water treatment unit to Kherson city capable of serving 25,000 people per day. Across hard-to-reach, rural communities, USAID delivered 20 Ecosoft mobile water treatment units, each with the ability to serve 1,000 people per day, as well as 100 water tanks to help store this water.
In conflict-affected areas of Ukraine, USAID is supporting humanitarian partners to restore damaged or disrupted water supply infrastructure, reservoirs, and water treatment facilities. Thus far in 2023, USAID’s humanitarian partners have helped provide access to drinking water and hygiene support to more than 3.3 million people, including in hard-to-reach areas on the front lines. USAID is also providing $5 million to support critical backup power needs and energy efficiency of Vodokanals, including support for control stations, generators, and transformers.
This comprehensive approach addresses immediate challenges while strengthening the overall resilience and sustainability of water services. Water is also key for the network of district heating systems, which provides a vital source of heating and hot water for many Ukrainian homes. USAID and our local partners are leading efforts to ensure continued operations of vital heating services despite continued attacks on Ukraine's infrastructure. For example, by the end of 2022, USAID had provided more than 60 kilometers of heating pipes and critical equipment for heating systems.
USAID will continue to work with Ukraine’s courageous water professionals to maintain essential services and help the country recover from Russia’s ruthless attacks.
Additional information: USAID’s Ukraine page