Deplete reservoir threatens Ukraine’s bread basket

Deplete reservoir threatens Ukraine’s bread basket

The depleted reservoir of the Nova Kakhovka dam has resulted in fears that a depleted reservoir would leave three critical regions of Ukraine's bread basket without a crucial water supply.

This has caused worries about the region and the global food supply, with Ukraine accounting for 40 percent of global trade in sunflower meal, 35% of sunflower oil, and 5% of wheat, barley and corn exports.

The Kakhovka reservoir is home to a number of canals that run from the Kakhovka reservoir, all of which serve to irrigate swathes of agricultural land in southern Ukraine. If the reservoir dries out, this water supply will be reduced.

The North Crimean and Kakhovsky canals are both of the most significant of these canals, running from just north of the broken dam.

The North Crimean canal supplies water to western Kherson before it flows down to Crimea. Its entrance is just before the dam and satellite imagery from 6 June already shows increased greenery within its reservoir, a sign of the water level decreasing.

After entering the Zaporizhzhia region, the Kakhovsky canal irrigates most of the Kherson region's fields before it enters the Zaporizhzhia.

The Dnipro region is supported by the Dnipro-Kryvyi Rih canal, which runs north of the Kakhovka reservoir, while a separate canal system provides drinking water and irrigation to the city of Zaporizhzhia.

Satellite images of the area directly south of the reservoir, around these canals, show mile upon mile of agricultural land. The circular formations are caused by a centre-pivot irrigation system that waters crops with equipment rotating around a pivot.

Ukraine's major crops include corn, wheat, sunflower seeds, and barley. All of these yields are currently down by at least a fifth in 2023 - 24, according to the US Department of Agriculture.

The Kakhovka reservoir is said to have less water flowing through to the network of canals used to irrigate these crops.

The other three crops are located in the south, mainly corn, which has its biggest yields in northern Ukraine.

In some of the most important regions for wheat, Dnipro and Zaporizhzhia are located within the region, and both depend on canals that run from the reservoir. The sunflower seed seed is also much more important compared to Dnipro.

While Odesa and Mykolaiv have the biggest yields for barley, Dnipro, Zaporizhzhia and Kherson are all still big producers of this crop.

Already images of the village of Marianske in Dnipro, taken on 7 June, show how reservoir levels have fallen.

The Ukraine agrarian and food ministry has warned that agricultural land in these regions could be so heavily affected that they could turn into deserts, the ministry said in a statement. The destruction of the Kakhovskaya HPP means that the fields in the south of Ukraine may turn into deserts as early as next year.