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(DF) Pernik to Be Supplied with Water from Belmeken Dam

January 18 (BTA) – In a bid to ease drinking water rationing in Pernik, water will be supplied to the southwestern city from the Belmeken Dam in Mt Rila using the infrastructure of Sofia’s water utility, Sofiyska Voda. This emerged at an extraordinary meeting here on Saturday morning at which Bulgarian Prime Minister Boyko Borissov considered options to address the water crisis in Pernik with Economy Minister Emil Karanikolov, Environment and Water Minister Emil Dimitrov, and Mayors Yordanka Fandakova of Sofia and Stanislav Vladimirov of Pernik. Water supply to nearly 82,000 residents of two urban and 17 rural settlements in Pernik Region has been rationed since November 18, 2019, after the area’s principal water source, the Studena Dam, was found to have been critically drained to a fifth of its capacity by a long-drawn draught. Other reasons are a 70-year-old leaking infrastructure in which 75 per cent of the water is lost before reaching users and the use of potable water by the local district heating company and a steel mill. The new source will provide 300 litres of water per second, Borissov said at the beginning of Saturday’s meeting. It will require building a 13 km conduit between the Malo Bouchino Reservoir and Pernik at the cost of 25 million leva, Karanikolov explained. The facility can go under 24/7 construction immediately and will be ready to carry 700,000 cu m monthly within 40 days. The two-way system will provide an alternative route to Sofia, too. The new conduit will not run through privately owned land, and the need of expropriation will thus be obviated. The price of water in Pernik will not be raised. Business users in Pernik have been offered an alternative water source: a nearby dam which will have to be linked to their enterprises. Laboratory tests will show whether this water is fit for industrial uses. Dimitrov noted that water has thus been rerouted on numerous occasions since 1993. Vladimirov pointed out that this solution will calm down the residents of Pernik and, in the long term, the area will not face such ordeals. Water mains in the city continue to be replaced because of the huge losses in transit. The measures restricting water use from the Studena Dam have proved underperforming. Borissov said at the meeting that an option to pump water from caves had been considered too, but it poses a significant risk of ruining the environment. Impact on Sofia Borissov, Dimitrov and the Sofiyska Voda representatives all pledged that the project will not affect adversely water supply to the capital city. Later in the day, City Hall quoted Fandakova as saying in a press release that the proposal for the Belmeken link will be laid before the Sofia Municipal Council solely provided Sofia’s water supply is 100 per cent guaranteed. “I asked the Government and the Mayor of Pernik to provide all the available information on the proposal as early as on Monday,” Fandakova says. She is adamant that as of today’s date Sofia’s water supply from the quantities held in the Iskar Dam (75 per cent) and the Beli Iskar Dam (25 per cent) is ensured for years to come. The Mayor demanded guarantees that the additional water quantities from the catchment area of the Belmeken Dam would be paid for and that a control valve would be installed upstream from the Malo Bouchino Reservoir so that the supply to Pernik could be stopped at the slightest imbalance of the water supply to Sofia. “All additional works can only be financed by the State budget. Without any of these conditions, I personally will not back a consideration of the proposal by the Sofia Municipal Council,” Fandakova states. She insisted that, by the same decision, the Cabinet should commit to a start of a repair of the Beli Iskar Dam wall even this year and to the construction of a new route from the Ognyanovo Dam to Sofia’s water transmission system as a back-up drinking water source for the capital city in the long term to safeguard against climate change. RY/LG //