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Start Pilot areas Lithuania: improving drinking water quality in small settlements

Lithuania: improving drinking water quality in small settlements

Sub-basins within the Nemunas RBD
Fig. 1 Sub-basins within the Nemunas RBD (source: Lithuanian Environmental Protection Agency http://gamta.lt)

The Šešupė river basin is a part of the Nemunas River Basin District (RBD). The territory of the Šešupė sub-basin within Lithuania comprises about 10% of the total area of the largest Nemunas RBD (Figure 1).

The Šešupė sub-basin (Figure 2), covering an area of 6,104.8 km2, was selected as a pilot area for the WATERPRAXIS project in Lithuania. The Lithuanian portion of the Šešupė sub-basin comprises 80% of its total area and 53% of the length of the river bed. The upper reaches of the Šešupė (27 km, catchment area: 287 km2) lie in Poland, while the western part of the middle and lower reaches (62 km, 919 km2) lie in the Kaliningrad region. The river flows 52 km along the border between Lithuania and the Kaliningrad region.

Šešupė sub-basin
Fig. 2 Šešupė sub-basin (source: Lithuanian Environmental Protection Agency http://gamta.lt)

By considering the typology of bodies of water and following the results of a human impact analysis, 70 rivers and 14 lakes were identified in the Šešupė sub-basin.
In eight rivers in the Šešupė sub-basin, water quality parameters are not in compliance with good ecological status requirements. The major identified sources of impacts in the Šešupė sub-basin are: municipal and industrial wastewater and agricultural pollution.

Agriculture accounts for the largest share of diffuse pollution. In the Šešupė sub-basin, as much as 75-80% of nitrate nitrogen enters water bodies as a result of agricultural pressures. According to the data on the area deemed agricultural land, arable land in the Šešupė sub-basin constitutes as much as half of the total area of sub-basin. A high density of animals (in respect of the total area of the sub-basin) has also been observed in the Šešupė sub-basin.
The annual water consumption in the Šešupė sub-basin is about 10,400 m3. The water consumption level in the Šešupė sub-basin is low (about 5% of household consumption in the Nemunas RBD) compared to other sub-basins in the Nemunas RBD.

Šešupė River
Šešupė. Photo: Andrius Kukis (http://www.panoramio.com)

In a number of groundwater wellfields in the Šešupė sub-basin, the concentrations of two indicators, sulphates (SO4) and chlorides (Cl), fail to conform to the requirements for drinking water quality. About 87% of the groundwater bodies investigated and around 55% of the groundwater wells used for potable water do not meet the requirements for iron concentration in water (≥0.2 mg/L).
Economically feasible solutions are needed for good-quality drinking water in small settlements. EU and national financial mechanisms do not cover drinking water quality improvement measures in small settlements.

The river Šešupė is used for tourism in many places
The river Šešupė is used for tourism in many places. Photo: Jonas Barušauskas (http://www.efoto.lt)
As a part of WATERPPAXIS, two settlements, Barzdai and Keturnaujiena, were selected for more detailed investigation of drinking water quality and selection of drinking water purification technology for ground water with abnormally high concentrations of sulphates, chlorides and iron. Measurements of oxidation-reduction potential (ORP) are applied in addition to traditional water quality parameters. ORP is an integrative indicator that defines certain geochemical processes in groundwater; thus, ORP monitoring data can be used to characterise trends in natural geochemical processes. The determination of ORP is advisable in water that contains a relatively high concentration of a redox-active species, e.g., organic carbon, the salts of many metals (Fe2+,Mn2+) and strong oxidising (chlorine, oxygen) or reducing (sulphite ion) agents. ORP will be applied for technological process control in addition to the characterisation of groundwater quality.

More information: Linas Kliučininkas tel. +370-37- 300180, email: This e-mail address is being protected from spambots. You need JavaScript enabled to view it