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  • Peter Yolles

Ukraine, Russia, and Water

Updated: Mar 9

Echo River invests strategically in the 3Ds of water tech – to digitize, decentralize and decarbonize the global water cycle. Decentralizing water and wastewater treatment is a critical pathway to establish water security – security to manage drought, to reduce reliance on natural ecosystems, to become locally resilient, and to live within our means. Decentralizing also can also mean reducing dependence on distant water transfers within states or even across borders. In fact, 310 rivers cross international boundaries, comprising 47% of Earth’s land surface, including the Colorado and Columbia Rivers.


Historical Water Conflicts Across the Globe.

(Source: Pacific Institute, accessed Feb 27, 2022)

With our attention turned to the conflict in Ukraine, I am reflecting on the long history of water and conflict, and how water is being used as leverage in this relationship. The Dnieper River, for example, emerges in Russia, flows through Belarus, flows through Kyiv to the Black Sea near Crimea. In 2018, Ukraine shut off the North Crimean Canal that provided 85% of the drinking water to the Russian-occupied Crimean Peninsula. Reuters reported this week that one of the first objectives during Russia’s invasion of Ukraine was to capture and re-open this canal. The non-profit Pacific Institute’s Water and Conflict project tracks all such events chronologically listing over 900 from biblical times to today across the globe. (Disclosure: I am a former employee and current donor to the Pacific Institute).


Even as water becomes more scarce in the climate age, we also have reason to hope that water can bring more cooperation than conflict as we recognize that we all share the same global water cycle, just as we share the same air and climate. Echo River’s portfolio companies can advance additional water security benefits as a result of their technological innovation to improve water efficiency, recycling, reuse, productivity, and security. Let’s send wishes to Ukrainians for a peaceful and rapid return of their independence and water sovereignty.


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