The Bulgarian government is planning to ease acute water shortages caused by drought through the construction of six new dams. It has already approved a five-year water balance plan.

The six dams, estimated to cost about US$22.2M, will ensure reliable water supplies for 450,000 people who currently have to suffer water rationing. Additionally, the country plans to build five more water supply dams by 2005 as part of the drought relief effort.

Last year’s severe drought, combined with this year’s dry and mild winter, has led to water rationing in over 1000 towns and villages across the country. The storage at the Iskar dam, which supplies the capital city Sofia, has fallen to 380M m3 from 420M m3 last year. The water company which serves Sofia, Soffiska Voda, has pledged to replace 200km of antiquated water pipes in 2001 and 2002 to stop leakage and waste.

Soffiska Voda is a joint venture 75% owned by UK company Internat-ional Water which last year won a 25-year concession to operate Sofia’s water and sewage system.