G.Info:State of the Environment - Georgia - Water

Water Pollution Problems

The most polluted rivers in Georgia are the Mtkvari, Rioni, Kvirila, Galidzga, Tkibuli, Enguri and Gubistskali. In most of these rivers, concentrations of phenols, hydrocarbons, copper, manganese, zinc and nitrogen are considerably higher than the national and international standards. Most water treatment plants are not operating or work at a very low level of efficiency. It is stated that more than 60% of the sewage treatment plants is obsolete and in urgent need of replacement. Coliform levels in reservoirs and water supply systems have reached dangerous levels in many areas.

According to the information collected in 1994, some 55.7% of the population lives in urban areas. That is the main reason why many of the country’s pollution problems are concentrated in several municipal areas, which are also industrial centres: Tbilisi (population of 1.242 million), Kutaisi (population of 240,200), Rustavi (population of 155,200) and Zestaponi (population of 51,300).

The cities suffer from aging municipal infrastructure (MIRP), insufficient or in many cases no waste water treatment facilities, and inadequate waste management facilities and practices. Surface waters on which municipal areas depend are polluted with municipal sewage and industrial discharges, although the latter source has declined under current economic conditions.

Water courses are heavily polluted by fertilizers and pesticides, exceeding permissible levels by a factor of 5 - 10. Only 13 % of domestic and industrial sewage is treated prior to discharges into the river and in many rural areas only contaminated water is available for domestic needs. The worst affected are Batumi, Poti and Sokhumi. Draining the wetlands in this region for agricultural purposes has overloaded the area with these pollutants.

Sewage accounts for about 60 % of the total volume of waste water. Sewage systems function only in 45 % of the populated areas, while 32 sewage systems are equipped with some kind of purification plant abstracting approximately 50 % of the organic substances.

About 3337 mill. cub. m of water resources were abstracted in Georgia in 1991 for industrial, communal and other uses (in 1992 - 3575 mill. cub. m). Out of this amount, 2867 mill. cub. m had been used, including 888 mill. cub. m in the industry, about 1145 mill. cub. m were discharged into water bodies, of which 90.5 mill. cub. m has not been treated at all and 21.4 mill. cub. m treated only partially. As a result more than 100 thousand tonnes of pollutants were released into the environment. Water pollution comes mainly from communal and industrial sources, 57.6% (58.42 thousand tonnes) and 40.0 % (42.58 thousand tonnes) respectively. The major sources of pollution are the metallurgy, coal mining, chemical industry and energy sector.

Georgia discharges a considerable volume of untreated domestic and industrial waste into the Black Sea via its rivers and estuaries. Refining wastes and spills from oil storage terminals discharge directly into the Black Sea at Batumi where coastal soils and marine sediments are contaminated mainly with heavy oil components.

Water Resources
Pollution "Hot Spots"
Most Polluted Rivers