Manual Mode: Who Will Regulate the Water Level of Lake Baikal and in Which Way

The problem of water level fluctuations in Lake Baikal has been actively discussed by environmentalists and journalists in the last few months. The problem is the draft resolution “On the maximum and minimum values ​​of the Baikal water level” which was submitted for consideration to the Russian government; public hearings on it have recently been held. Based on the results of the discussion, it is proposed to set the maximum and minimum values ​​of the water level in Lake Baikal during average water content at 457 and 456 meters in the Pacific elevations system, respectively, for the years 2018-2020. During the low water content period, it is proposed to set the minimum value at 455.54 meters, the maximum value for the high water content period - at 457.85 meters.

Let us remind you that the Resolution No.626 approved in the summer of 2016 is currently effective: its validity expires on January 1, 2018.

What Does This Mean?

According to experts, the range of the water level is actually connected with the real situation in the lake at the moment, because when water content in the Pacific elevations system grew extremely low in 2014, it was practically impossible to maintain the water level in the lake within the boundaries strictly fixed by the previous resolution.

The range of water level fluctuations has remained the same in the new resolution, but only if the water content is average for the given year. If the situation deviates in one direction or another, the Federal Water Resources Agency and the Yenisei Basin Water Administration got the opportunity to regulate the level within a slightly wider range – plus 0.46 m to the lower side and plus 0.85 m to the higher side.

Who Is to Blame?

However, the disputes about the causes of low water levels never stop: public environmental organizations sound alarm and fear that such “reliefs” can lead to a change in the coastal relief and the death of the flora and fauna of Lake Baikal. However, this position is not shared by the scientists who have been studying the largest lake of the planet for many years.

The most frequent issue, being a mistake, is accusations against power engineers and hydroelectric power plants (let’s recall that there is cascade of four hydroelectric power plants on Angara flowing out of Baikal) which allegedly have a significant influence on the fluctuations in the water level of Lake Baikal.

“It is anyways erroneous to assume that energy experts are too blame for low water levels. Hydroelectric power plants, by virtue of their design, can retain water and take a smaller amount of it, but they just cannot take more water: they do not have the pumps. The Irkutsk HPP works to ensure the regulating releases needed for the operation of water supply systems in cities during the periods of low water level” - Elena Vishnyakova, Public Relations Director of En + holding, explained to the “Federal Press” Agency.

We decided to tell you about the issue which is complicated  for Baikal in our infographics, then we also asked the scientists what to do,  so that to avoid any harm by water level fluctuations to the fauna and flora of the deepest lake on the planet.

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