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C2 – Freshwater abstraction in the Republic of Belarus


Key messages

Belarus is a non-water-stressed country, with an annual water exploitation index of around 2 % in 2017.

As a result of improvements in water-saving measures and the decoupling of water abstraction by economic sectors from economic development, water abstraction was almost halved (reduced by 48 %) from 1990 to 2017. In 2017, annual total freshwater abstraction in Belarus was around 1 400 million m3, corresponding to 147.2 m3 of annual water abstraction per capita.

The pressure from water abstraction is comparatively much higher on groundwater, which meets 58 % of total water abstraction in the country (2017).

Total water abstraction from groundwater (812 million m3 in 2017) still remains higher than the national target of 750 million m3 for annual water abstraction from groundwater by 2025.

Is water abstraction decreasing in the Republic of Belarus?

Figure 1 - Development of water abstraction by source (1990-2017)

Data sources:

С.2. Freshwater abstraction provided by Belstat (National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus)


Belarus is a non-water-stressed country. The annual water exploitation index (WEI) varies from around 2 % to around 5 %. The WEI illustrates the level of the pressure of water abstraction on renewable water resources. Renewable water resources, overall, are under the control of climate conditions. In particular, they are affected by precipitation and actual evapotranspiration. During wet years (high precipitation and low actual evapotranspiration), the WEI would be relatively lower, while in dry years, even though water abstraction remains at the same level, the WEI would be higher. Renewable water resources in Belarus vary greatly from year to year. In 2013, Belarus received 73 900 million m3 of renewable water resources, which was the highest amount received between 1995 and 2017, while 2015 was the worst year, receiving only 29 800 million m3 of renewable water resources. In 2017, the amount of renewable water resources received was 60 400 million m3, which was slightly above the annual average. According to the estimated WEI, Belarus abstracted only 2.3 % of its total renewable water resources in 2017. Therefore, Belarus is regarded as a non-water-stressed country.

Water is mainly abstracted from groundwater resources, while freshwater resources are used less. The strategy on environmental protection of the Republic of Belarus set a target of reducing groundwater abstraction to the level of 700-750 hm3 per year in 2025. The current level of water abstraction from groundwater is still above this target.

A substantial decrease occurred in water abstraction between 1990-2017 due to improvements in water-saving measures, such as the renewal of the water transport infrastructure and using more water-efficient appliances in daily practice. For instance, despite a stable population of around 9.5 million inhabitants, water abstraction per capita has decreased by about 22 % from 2001 to 2017.


According to the UNECE third environmental performance review of Belarus in 2016, water demand continued to decline due to the decrease in economic activities and the spread of water metering.

In addition, decoupling of water abstraction from economic development is also becoming evident in water resources management. For instance, Belarus increased the total gross value added from all economic activities by 47.7 % from 2006 to 2017, whereas water abstraction decreased by 17.7 % over the same time period.

On the other hand, there need to be further reductions in water abstraction, particularly from groundwater, to save at least around an additional 60 hm3 of water abstracted from groundwater in order to reach the national target set by the strategy on environmental protection.

What are the pressures of economic activities on freshwater resources?

Figure 2 - Development of water abstraction by sectors (2006-2017)

Data sources:

С.2. Freshwater abstraction provided by Belstat (National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus)


Figure 3 - Water abstraction by economic activities in the Republic of Belarus (2017)

Data sources:

С.2. Freshwater abstraction provided by Belstat (National Statistical Committee of the Republic of Belarus)


The water supply industry and agriculture, forestry and fishing are the sectors that demand the most water abstraction. The annual average water abstraction for these sectors together accounts for 70 % of the total water abstraction in the country.

The water supply industry is the main sector that provides water for the population. The coverage of the households served by a centralised water supply system has reached 94.7 %.

Agriculture, forestry and fishing is traditionally a sector that uses a large amount of water. A feature of Belarus is that two thirds of the volume used by this sector is consumed by the fishing and aquaculture sub-sector.

Indicator specification

Indicator definition

The State water code of Belarus defines freshwater abstraction as the water withdrawn from groundwater and surface water bodies to be further used for various purposes.

The total volume of freshwater abstracted annually (surface and groundwater) – by all economic activity in accordance with the National Classification of the Republic of Belarus ‘Kinds of Economic Activity’ ОКРБ 005-2011 (compliant with Nomenclature of Economic Activities (NACE) Rev  2.0) and expressed as a percentage of renewable freshwater resources – i.e. as the country’s WEI.


The total volume of freshwater abstraction and the volume used by each economic activity are measured in million cubic metres (million m3) per year; the WEI is expressed as a percentage.



Justification for indicator selection

The indicator provides a measure of the freshwater abstracted from natural sources, as well as the pressure on the environment in terms of the abstraction of freshwater resources.

Scientific references


Policy context and targets


Context description

National policy context

According to the national strategy for sustainable social and economic development of the Republic of Belarus up to 2030 one of the strategic goals is ‘to use fewer natural resources per unit of economic result’.

International policy context

Sustainable Development Goal (SDG) 6 of the UN Sustainable Development Agenda for the period up to 2030 is to ‘ensure access to water and sanitation for all’. One of indicators of SDG 6, indicator 6.4.2, is the ‘level of water stress: freshwater withdrawal as a proportion of available freshwater resources’, which shows the importance of a sustainable water policy.


National targets

According to the strategy on environmental protection of the Republic of Belarus up to 2025, groundwater abstraction should be at the level of 700-750 million m3 per year by 2025.

International targets

UN SDG 6, target 6.4: by 2030, substantially increase water use efficiency across all sectors and ensure sustainable withdrawals and supply of freshwater to address water scarcity and substantially reduce the number of people suffering from water scarcity.


Related policy documents



Methodology for indicator calculation

Units and equations






Fresh surface water abstracted

million m3/year



Fresh groundwater abstracted

million m3/year



Freshwater abstracted

million m3/year

= C 2.1 + C 2.2;

= C 2.4 + C 2.5 + C 2.6 + C 2.7 + C 2.8 + C 2.9


Water supply industry (ISIC 36)

million m3/year




million m3/year



Agriculture, forestry and fishing (ISIC 01-03)

million m3/year



Manufacturing (ISIC 10-33)

million m3/year



Electricity industry (ISIC 351)

million m3/year



Other economic activities

million m3/year



Renewable freshwater resources (surface)

million m3/year



WEI for surface water

percentage %

= C 2.3/C 2.10


Methodology for gap filling

For the data on freshwater abstraction by economic activity in 2006-2015 the National Classification of the Republic of Belarus ‘Kinds of Economic Activity’ ОКРБ 005-2006 (compliant with NACE Rev. 1.1) was used.


Methodology references

  • Belstat, 2019. The system of classifications used in state statistics.

  • EEA, 2005. EEA core set of indicators guide. EEA Technical report No 1/2005, ISBN 92-9167-757-4, Luxembourg.

  • UNECE, 2018. Guidelines for the Application of Environmental Indicators, Data template – C2: Freshwater abstraction.

  • UNECE, 2018. Guidelines for the Application of Environmental Indicators, Description of C2: Freshwater abstraction.

  • UNECE, 2018. Guidelines for the Application of Environmental Indicators, Glossary of terms – C2: Freshwater abstraction.

  • UNSD and UNEP, 2013. Questionnaire 2013 on Environment Statistics. United Nations Statistics Division and United Nations Environment Programme, Questionnaire 2013 on Environment Statistics, Section Water.


Methodology uncertainty

The volume of freshwater abstraction from natural sources does not take into account the volume of water produced by households independently (through wells and unauthorised wells).

The WEI is estimated for surface water only (without groundwater), because of difficulties of correctly estimating the renewable groundwater flow.

Data sets uncertainty

The official statistical information on water statistics by economic activity has only been produced since 2006.

Rationale uncertainty

No uncertainty has been specified.

Data sources