Aqueduct, ozone sorption and filters: eight facts about the past and present of Moscow water supply system

March 28
Municipal services

The World Water Day is celebrated annually on 22 March. This date is intended to highlight the importance of fresh water in the world. Indeed, it is becoming an increasingly valuable resource due to the growing population of the Earth. Moscow’s first centralised water supply system was built during the reign of Catherine II, and today the needs of Moscow residents for clean drinking water are met by four water treatment plants. The most interesting facts about drinking water supply to Moscow can be found in the article.

Fact No. 1. The first permanent source of water appeared in the 14th century

The Taynitskaya Tower played an important role in the defence system of the river side of the Kremlin. It had a barbican connected to the tower via a stone bridge, and a passage gate. In addition, builders laid a secret well and created a hidden exit to the Moskva River here.

A well appeared thanks to Prince Ivan Kalita. He decided to erect a fortress in 1339. Thus, an oak kremlin with several towers was built by the Prince’s order. The city needed an access to drinking water to withstand the invasion of the enemy. As a result, the first water supply system appeared where the Taynitskaya Tower of the modern Moscow Kremlin now stands. The craftsmen dug trenches from the Moskva River and laid oak pipes so that underground water would flow into a prepared well.

In 1930-1933, the barbican was dismantled, the gate was blocked, and the well was filled in.

A. Vasnetsov. Moscow Kremlin under Ivan Kalita’s reign. 1921

Fact No. 2. The construction of the first centralised water supply system in Moscow started under the reign of Catherine II

In the 18th century, Empress Catherine II claimed it was necessary to build a centralised water supply system in Moscow. Engineers developed a project to deliver water from Mytishchi by gravity. The system was planned to provide the city with 300 thousand buckets (one bucket – 12.3 liters) of drinking water per day.

The Mytishchi water supply system started working in 1804. Water from springs was supplied to the city through a brick gallery. However, Moscow did not receive the declared volume of water: its largest part was lost along the way due to design imperfections. In the 19th century, the water supply system had to be reconstructed several times.

Despite the difficulties, the Mytishchi water pipeline was supplying the city with drinking water for a century and a half. Some part of a unique structure,the Rostokinsky aqueduct, can still be found in the modern city. One of the first water reservoirs in Moscow was the Sukharev Tower.

Water supply to houses and construction of fire wells began only in the middle of the 19th century.

Fact No. 3. Water supply from the river began only in the early 20th century

As the number of industrial enterprises was growing, the city needed more water. Thus, it was decided to take it from the Moskva River.

The water intake point was selected near ​​the village of Rublevo. The choice was not random: there were no large enterprises along the river. The construction of the plant started on 15 July, 1901. It was commissioned as early as in 1903. Before the construction of the Moscow Canal, the Rublevskaya plant was the largest water intake facility in Moscow’s water supply system.

Rublevskaya dam. 1930s. Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate

In the 1930s, the city faced a shortage of water from the Moskva River, so it started building the Moskva-Volga Canal (today the Moscow Canal). Simultaneously with canal opening in 1937, they commissioned the Vostochnaya water treatment plant. In 1952, they put the Severnaya water treatment plant into operation. The most recent water treatment plant, Zapadnaya, was opened in 1964.

Moscow’s Main Archive Directorate

Fact No. 4. Four water treatment plants operate in Moscow

Drinking water in Moscow is purified at four water treatment plants. The Rublevskaya and Zapadnaya plants provide the city with water from the Moskva River, while the Vostochnaya and Severnaya plants supply water from the Volga.

Water flows within the city can be directed from one plant to another, if necessary. In other words, if a malfunction occurs at one facility or harmful impurities are found in the water, water from another plant will be supplied to capital’s buildings. Thus, common consumers won’t even notice anything.

Water for the capital city is collected from the territory of three regions: Moscow, Tver and Smolensk. The stock of the reservoirs is so large that the capital city will face no water shortage in the coming years.

Fact No. 5. Water is treated in several stages

River water goes through several stages of treatment before it is supplied to taps. First, it is cleaned of suspended matter with coagulants. Then it passes through filters consisting of quartz sand and drainage. Water from the Moskva River is additionally treated with ozone and passed through carbon filters.

Ozone sorption is one of the up-to-date filtration technologies that not only purifies water but also preserves its health-giving properties, and also helps get rid of a specific odour from the Moskva River. Ozone is a stronger oxidising agent than chlorine. Once in the air, it oxidises all suspended substances that need to be removed from water. Thanks to the ozone sorption method, the taste and colour of the water improves, while the odour disappears.

Fact No. 6. Tap water is safe to drink

The quality of drinking water in Moscow has been increasing every year. Tap water is guaranteed to be safe.

Today, it is purified with the use of sodium hypochlorite. The compound is added to the water to prevent its secondary contamination with bacteria or microorganisms on its way to consumers. This substance is absolutely safe to humans.

Experts strictly monitor the quality of drinking water. In 2020 alone, more than 2.5 million water quality tests were made in Moscow. Over 890 thousand samples were taken by the water quality control centre. 120 physical and chemical, 12 microbiological and four hydrobiological indicators were checked during regular process monitoring. Most of the studies were made at water treatment plants – 1.2 million tests.

Over 500 devices are continuously operating at the water treatment facilities to monitor the main water quality indicators at different stages.

Fact No. 7. The volume of water consumption in the capital city is decreasing from year to year

Despite the population growth, the volume of water consumption in the city is gradually decreasing. The reason is the modernisation of old industrial production facilities and the fact that plumbing systems are becoming more up-to-date and higher-quality, which means that losses on the way to consumers are decreasing.

Muscovites consume about 2.85 million cubic meters of water per day. Last year, during the pandemic and economic activity decline, water consumption in the capital city fell by about 15 percent compared to normal levels.

People’s desire to treat natural resources with care and conserve them is another important factor. Water metering devices and the use of up-to-date dishwashers and washing machines that need less water have also played their role.

Moscow is also implementing educational projects. For example, they have placed a special QR-code leading to an interactive presentation on the back of the single payment document. Using augmented reality technologies, it shows the stages of tap water treatment and indicates how to use water sparingly.

Fact No. 8. The capital city has the Museum of Water

The first Russian information and ecological centre,the Museum of Water, was opened in 1993. It was founded by Mosvodokanal JSC. The museum itself is located in the territory of the former Main Sewage Pumping Station built in 1898. It informs people of water conservation, respect for water resources and environmental culture in general.

At the museum, one can find out about the history of the first Kremlin water pipelines, the time when centralised water supply and sewerage systems were erected in the city – from the Rostokinsky aqueduct to modern facilities: membrane filtration units for drinking water, ultraviolet disinfection units and primary sedimentation tanks with a system for removing odours at treatment facilities.

The Museum of Water also offers tours, including “Water supply and sewerage in Moscow,” “Water in your city” and “The second life of water.” Prior registration is required. The entrance to the museum is free.


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