In the spring of 2014 LapLab was selected from over a hundred teams to join the second round of the closed competition of Voronezh Sea with three other teams. The aim was to develop a rescue strategy for the future of the lake with proposals for implementing ecology and new development to clean the heavily polluted water of the Voronezh Reservoir. Getting selected meant we got to travel to Voronezh and reflect on the current state and observe the situation of this inner sea. Together with AM Proektus and the research work of MSc W. van Zanten we prepared and presented our vision after visiting the site. Getting selected also meant we had the honorable job to select the winners of the open first competition as part of the jury.
The city of Voronezh has about one million inhabitants and is located on the banks of Voronezh River. In 1972 the small reservoir was transformed into the Voronezh Sea, a sweet water lake that stretches out over 30 km length and 2 km wide. It was met with great joy by the population, as can be seen in early photographs where families are relaxing on the sandy beaches and taking a dive in the fresh water during the hot Voronezh summer. Twenty years after this reality changed and it is completed not allowed to swim as a result of increasingly worse polluted water, to the level of a biohazard.
Uncooled cooling water from the energy plant, blooming algae fields, health threatening bacteria, mad fish and a city hungry for big development we found. The biggest problem is maybe not that the water is too warm or badly polluted but that the city of Voronezh lays in the south of Russia and has a warm climate, which means people, although warned, use the water for recreation and fishing. High levels of oil products, organic waste, heavy metal salts and even Cholera and E-coli were recently found in the water. The fish in the lake get sick from the bacteria to the point they swim on the surface of the water without control. Imagine you swim in this water … or even, the drinking water for the city comes from this reservoir.
In short the problem is that the already warmed up water from the northern steel factory of the city of Lipetsk flows into the lake. The northern part has a typical shallow lake condition with water depths of one meter on average and is therefor full of water plants and rich in fauna. Reality is that also here there are the bad bacteria. The middel part of the sea is were the city has illegal outflows that pollute the lake with sewage water. In the southern part the sea is influenced by the warm water outflow of the energy plant that heats up the water in the lake, with the average depth of three to four meters this is what makes the shallow water full of nutrients and turns into a blooming algae pool with growing bacteria.
Our proposal was to start to except the problem and that it can only be solved by removing the causes and to let nature then do the cleaning job. First step in this process is that Nature on this location does not want to be a sea. It wants to be a moderate river. Humans created the dam and the lake. With the knowledge we know have from our water engineering experiments we now know better. We suggest to cut up the sea on the long run into smaller lakes and to except the fact that only a series of shallow lakes with halophyte structured islands, divided smartly, can save the lake.
One thing is for sure, the people of Voronezh deserve a healthy lake!