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Lake Baikal - no access to drinking water?

Lake Baikal Paradox
Lake Baikal Paradox
The people of Lake Baikal have no access to drinking water. As paradoxical as this may sound, it is a fact. Living on the shore of the greatest freshwater lake in the world, local residents have no access to potable water.
Those of you who had heard about the uniqueness of Lake Baikal and the composition of its unique water might imagine the locals happily dipping their buckets straight into the lake. You would be very surprised to find out that by no means could everyone do that today, especially those who live in the areas popular among tourists. In most places, the shoreline depth of the lake is shallow. At these depths, the water’s composition is so far from the norm that drinking it has been officially prohibited. However, despite the official instructions, some local residents still use the water from the lake without any additional purification. Scientists have proven that this water cannot be drunk – not because it is dirty, but rather because it is too pure. Small microorganisms responsible for the natural cleansing of the lake’s water remove the salts that the human body needs from the water as well. In other words, if you drink water straight from the Baikal, it will wash the salts out of your body.

The problem

One way to address this problem would be to build mineralisation stations along the shoreline, but this has been deemed to be too expensive. The project of building wells in villages along the shoreline was more economical. The construction of wells was financed by the state, but the depth of the wells was often less than the necessary 150 metres, and the water in these wells is saturated with iron, which you can instantly discern by its odour. This water must be boiled before drinking. While the wells are available and the residents needs them, they cannot fully solve the problem of access to drinking water. That’s because the number of tourists who come to Baikal is growing, not only in the summer, and are also in need of drinking water.

Lake Baikal Paradox
Lake Baikal Paradox

Tourism Season

During the high tourism season, the problem of access to drinking water is somewhat relieved with the help of the additional water brought to the region in cisterns. And even if the water only costs a few kopecks, if you lived on the shore of the lake that holds 20 per cent of the world’s fresh water, would you want to pay for drinking water?


Today, if you live on the shore of Lake Baikal, you have three ways of getting clean water: grab your bucket and rubber boots, wade into the water, try to get to a deeper spot and fill your buckets yourself – in this case no one will be responsible for the quality of the water. The second way is less demanding and safer: to get the water from a well if you are lucky enough to have one in your street and don’t have to carry your buckets across three streets. And the third way is the safest of all: purchase the water, which costs mere kopecks, but then it is delivered not every day but two times a week, according to a schedule.


NGO Baikal In­for­ma­tion Cen­tre "Gran"

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