Clean Drinking Water is a Luxury for Most Uzbeks

Posted in: Drinking Water News, Global Water News
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The Ahangaranskoe water reserve near Angren. Photo credit:

Article courtesy of Uznews | June 11, 2014 | Uznews | Shared as educational material

Water supply systems in Uzbekistan are not able to provide Uzbeks with enough clean drinking water even in regions that have natural sources of water.

There are many discussions about the adequacy of the water supply in Uzbekistan, and the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Resources admits that the country’s water system is currently extremely run-down and requires an overhaul.

The government is promising to modernize water supply systems in cities in 2014-2016 and then move on to rural and remote areas.

In the meantime, it is risky to drink tap water in Uzbekistan even though no official warnings have ever been issued.

Not enough money for modernization projects

The state of affairs in Angren is typical for small and mid-sized Uzbek cities: most of the water supply infrastructure is in disrepair according to off-the-record discussions with city utility employees.

According to the World Health Organization the quality of drinking water needs to be constantly monitored. Every country develops its own legal basis to ensure the quality and control of this process. However, if there is not enough public funding to support the system no laws can fix the problem.

“The Uzbek water utility does not have money to eliminate technical issues, which may lead to water pollution. There is no opportunity to fully clean the water at water treatment plants either,” says a water utility employee.

Oddly enough official lab tests by the water utility and city sanitary and epidemiology station attest that Angren’s water generally complies with norms and regulations with only occasional bacteriological issues.

Lab workers, however, say that water in Angren complies with the regulations only at two water treatment plants and only immediately before it is released into the city’s water grid when chloride is added.

The water supply network that delivers water to faucets is also in disrepair and can pollute the water thus greatly affecting the quality of water individuals have access to.

Chlorination is the main method of cleaning water

Cleaning water is a multi-step process, where traditionally malfunctioning steps are resolved by introducing more chlorine to the water. And sometimes it is easier to shut off the supply than to clean the water, which happens quite often, especially after heavy rainfall when parts of the system are overwhelmed.

In order to eliminate the murkiness in the water – one of the indicators of unsafe water – coagulation for sedimentation of suspended particles is required. The system in Angren used to use aluminum oxychloride and aluminum sulfate produced in Angren for this step. The manufacturer, however, shut down long ago and the city eventually ran out of these chemicals. About six years ago the coagulation step was simply eliminated from the entire process.

The more often water is shut off the dirtier it is

When the water is flowing under sufficient pressure there are not too many opportunities for it to get polluted. However, a low pressure or shut-off system creates ample opportunities for unhealthy bacteria to develop.

The Angren system is usually shuts off twice a week: on Tuesday and Fridays between 9am and 6pm. According to regulations after the water had been shut off the entire water system needs to be flushed out with chlorine.

This however is out of the financial reach of the Angren system.

According to the water utility employees the system does this only once a year. Even after emergency repairs it is not always the case that the system gets flushed out and cleaned with chlorine.

Water in the river but not in the faucet

It should be noted that Angren water shortages happen in the city where this is no shortage of natural sources of water. Angren is situated in a valley, in the mountains on the Ahangaran River, which is essentially fed year round by many small clean mountain rivers. According to hydrologists, there is enough water in the area to supply the city.

For now the Angren water utility is awaiting the promised modernization planned over the next two years.

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