Characteristics of Black Sea dispersion of freshened and polluted transitional waters from the Dnipro-Bug estuary after destruction of the Kakhovka Reservoir dam

  • Yu. S. Tuchkovenko
  • D. V. Kushnir
  • V. A. Ovcharuk
  • A. V. Sokolov
  • V. N. Komorin
Keywords: dam destruction, the Kakhovka Reservoir, the Black Sea, northwestern part, dispersion of transitional waters, satellite data, modeling


This study examines the characteristics of distribution of large volumes of freshened and polluted transitional waters from the Dnipro-Bug estuary across the northwestern part of the Black Sea (NWBS) that was caused by destruction of the Kakhovka HPP dam in June 2023. From June 6, 2023 to June 12, 2023 14.4 km³ of water were discharged from the Kakhovka Reservoir into the Dnipro-Bug estuary and subsequently into the sea. This volume constitutes 27% of the total annual average natural runoff of the Dnipro River (53.5 km³). During the initial days following the dam destruction water flow through the breach amounted to 40-50 thousand m³/s. The water carried a variety of pollutants into the sea that were present in the water of the Kakhovka Reservoir, in its bottom sediments, and also washed off from the flooded territories of the lower Dnipro area (more than 2000 hectares).

The analysis of the distribution characteristics was conducted using satellite images of the sea surface color and chlorophyll a concentrations, as well as the results of hydrodynamic modeling with application of the 3-D variant of a numerical hydrodynamic model Delft3D-Flow Flexible Mesh. It was established that the plume of freshened and polluted water initially spread across the Dnipro-Bug estuarine region of the NWBS and then moved towards the sea coast of Odesa reaching it on June 9-10, 2023. Subsequently, the plume began to spread along the western sea coast and reached the Tuzlivski Limans area on June 14, 2023. After this the narrow plume of dispersed water along the sea coast began to dilute when moving towards the open sea in the form of "tongues" that had formed over the sea bottom elevations. The modeling of dispersion of a conservative neutral buoyancy admixture serving as a marker of pollution spread with the transitional waters from the Dnipro-Bug estuary showed that reduction in pollution levels took place solely due to hydrodynamic dilution (up to 60% in Odesa District of the NWBS and up to 30% in the Danube-Dniester interfluve area of the river water pollution level observed in Kherson).

The identified characteristics were determined based on the water circulation process that formed in the Dnipro-Bug estuarine area under the influence of significant sea level gradients resulting from the inflow of large volumes of freshened transitional waters through the estuary and the Kinburn Strait during the first days, and then followed by the density currents formed at the hydrofront between the transformed river water and surrounding sea. The influence of wind conditions manifested itself in the form of spread across the NWBS of the plume of dispersed transitional water from the Dnipro-Bug estuary and the hydrofront's position and configuration. Though wind-induced currents were not dominant, they still influenced the water dynamics and distribution of concentrations of admixtures, for instance, chlorophyll a, within the freshened plume that was outlined by the hydrofront. They also promoted penetration along the coastal shallow area of transformed river water towards Odesa.


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How to Cite
Tuchkovenko, Y. S., Kushnir, D. V., Ovcharuk, V. A., Sokolov, A. V., & Komorin, V. N. (2023). Characteristics of Black Sea dispersion of freshened and polluted transitional waters from the Dnipro-Bug estuary after destruction of the Kakhovka Reservoir dam. Ukrainian Hydrometeorological Journal, (32), 95-114.