Over a trillion tenge has been spent in Kazakhstan on water, but there are no fewer problems

According to her, more than 1 trillion tenge was allocated for the provision of centralized water supply in 2013-2022 alone. However, today only 78% of settlements are centrally provided with drinking water (4.9 thousand out of 6.3 thousand, including 89 cities and 6.2 thousand villages).

"Despite significant budget injections, all the problems are related to the inefficient organization of the water resources management system itself. Water losses on old canals and worn-out networks are enormous. For example, in 2022, losses in agriculture alone amounted to 5.2 cubic km (45% of the total water intake). The audit of 2022 found that in the southern region, water-saving technologies have been implemented only on 68 thousand hectares, or 5% of the total irrigated area. And even this allowed us to save 0.2 cubic km per year," she said.

At the same time, as part of the audits in the Committee on Water Resources and Kazvodkhoz, about 68 billion tenge of budget funds and 693 billion tenge of assets were covered, the head of the chamber added.

"3.3 billion tenge of financial violations, 56 billion tenge of inefficient planning and use of budgetary and borrowed funds, as well as 2.5 billion tenge of economic losses and lost profits were established. To date, 1.7 billion tenge (51%) has been reimbursed and restored to the budget. Administrative fines have been imposed. Four materials have been transferred to law enforcement agencies. One of them was sentenced by the court to five years in prison," she continued.

Godunova also spoke about the systemic problems and shortcomings of water resources management identified by the audits.

"The first one. High wear and tear, in some cases even the emergency condition of water facilities. The use of technologically outdated irrigation systems. More than 25% of hydraulic structures are in unsatisfactory and disrepair. Despite this, the design and construction of canals using outdated technologies continues. For example, the project for the reconstruction of 16 earthen canals in the Zhambyl region has been suspended due to poor-quality design, as well as due to erosion of the bottom and slopes. This led to an adjustment and an increase in the cost of the project. As a result, 50% of the completed works in the amount of 1.1 billion tenge, in fact, are buried in the ground," she complained.

Thus, due to the deterioration of irrigation systems and the use of old construction technologies, water losses account for 50% of the volume of water intake, Godunova added. In channels with an earthen bed, 40% simply goes into the ground. Another 10% evaporates due to heat and wind.

"It is an egregious fact that the authorized state body – the Committee on Water Resources – accepted this as the norm and annually agreed on planned water loss rates from 40% to 70% to Kazvodkhoz. Another aspect. Despite the unavailability of hydraulic structures, since 2009 Kazvodkhoz has been implementing a project to develop and implement a unified information system for water resources management worth 422 million tenge. At those prices. It was planned to connect about 6 thousand structures to this system. At the time of the audit (May 2023), that is, after 14 years, the share of automated hydraulic structures was 2%, or 118 facilities. Of these, only 47 have a working information system. That is, less than 1% is actually automated. There is no integration with Kazvodkhoz itself yet," she said indignantly.

The second, according to her, is the problem of providing centralized water supply.

"You remember – even the residents of the capital experienced problems with water this summer. Recent cases in Atyrau and Temirtau. And what about the countryside? For example, the audit found that residents of the villages of Talapker and Kazhymukan of the Akmola region (13.5 thousand people), in the presence of distribution networks built in 2021, do not have access to centralized water supply. In Aktobe region, the opposite situation is revealed: the fact of the implementation by different regional administrations of two projects for the supply of drinking water supply to one locality – the station of Zhazyk Khromtau district – with a total cost of more than 400 million tenge," the head of the chamber gave an example.

Godunova called the imperfection of the tariff policy the third point.

"The low tariff for Kazvodkhoz for 2018-2023 had a significant impact on the deterioration of the financial condition and contributed to the accumulation of losses of the enterprise. This situation does not allow not only to invest in the construction of new infrastructure, but also to maintain the existing one in proper condition, as well as to raise the salaries of production workers who are forced to leave the industry. It was no longer possible without a tariff review. Therefore, in November of this year, new tariffs were approved for the upcoming five-year period. Of course, it is lower than stated, but not twice, but by 30%. This will make it possible to make current repayment of loans, make at least some capital investments and slightly increase wages (by 25%)," Godunova explained.

She called the fourth problem the shortage of qualified personnel and the outflow of technical specialists.

"The training of personnel for the water industry according to the current curriculum does not provide the necessary amount of modern knowledge. In addition, there are not enough specialists in the field of design and operation of hydraulic structures – hydraulic engineers, hydraulic reclamation engineers. There is still no analysis of the actual need for personnel in the branch ministry. According to oral information, the shortage in the industry is about 500 specialists. But no one knows how many and in which region. Only after the state audit in 2018, work began on the opening of the specialty "Water management", starting in 2020, they began to train personnel in engineering and construction in this area. Therefore, there are no graduates in this specialty yet," she stressed.

Another reason for the acute shortage of personnel is low wages – an average of 172 thousand tenge, Godunova added. At the same time, 156 specialists are expected to graduate in 2024. This will ensure the need for personnel in the water industry by 30%, the head of the chamber concluded.

Earlier, the Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation stated that there would be no water shortage in Kazakhstan. At the same time, the majilismen warned that in Kazakhstan, after 17 years, every second resident risks being left without drinking water. It is known that over 220 billion tenge will be spent in Kazakhstan on solving water problems. And the EDB, in turn, warned that Kazakhstan is threatened by a chronic water shortage.