An Assessment of the Quality of OGSNK/GSN Data Relating to Nutrient Compounds, Organochlorine Pesticides and Biochemical Oxygen Demand (BOD5) in the Water of the Lower Don

L.V. Boeva, Y.Y.Vinnikov – Hydrochemical Institute, Federal Service of Russia for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring, Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

A.V. Zhulidov, G.S.Volovik, V.V. Khlobystov – Centre for Preparation and Implementation of International Projects for Technical Assistance, North Caucasus branch, Rostov-on-Don, Russia.

S.R. Brown – Consultant, Integrated Management and Rational Water Use in the North Caucasus Region Sub-Component, Sir William Halcrow & Partners Ltd., UK.

The database of the Unified Federal Service for Observation and Control of Environmental Pollution (OGSNK pre-1992, GSN from 1992 onwards) contains several years of information on the chemical composition of surface waters of the former Soviet Union and present-day Russia. The database incorporates results of surface water tests conducted by the former USSR Federal Meteorological Committee (Russian Hydromet) and by other agencies. However, the majority of the observed data have not been analysed critically before being stored. Such an analysis would take account of the particular characteristic behaviour of chemical substances in natural environments and possible errors in the course of the analysis of water samples.

While designing a regional monitoring system for the Lower Don, as part of the Integrated Management and Rational Water Use in the North Caucasus Region Sub-Component, it became apparent that a significant proportion of the hydrochemical data contained in the OGSNK/GSN data base was sufficiently anomalous to call into question its reliability. In this connection, a retrospective assessment of data reliability for water quality in the Lower Don was considered to be of crucial importance. A necessary part of this assessment would be the identification of typical concentration ranges for various components in the surface waters of the region.

For this purpose, a critical assessment was conducted of the results of chemical analyses collected at 10 locations in the Lower Don for the period 1985 to 1995. The data had been provided to the OGSNK/GSN database from the laboratories of various agencies, and were the results of more than one method of laboratory analysis.

In the course of this work the following tests were conducted:

  1. The peculiarities of each component of analysis were studied, as well as the actual conditions of the laboratory analysis and actual extent of errors;
  2. The form of the frequency distribution was estimated for each component concentration in the time series data set;
  3. Obvious errors were identified and the possible causes considered; results whose values could be questioned on the basis of initial range checks were excluded;
  4. An analysis was conducted of validated data from independent sources.

The following components were selected for the study:

The following issues were considered:

  1. The principle factors influencing the error in the result of laboratory analysis (conditions and time of storage, inadequacy of methods, insufficient analytical quality control, poor quality of chemical reagents and equipment, inadequately trained staff, etc.);
  2. The percentage of data which could be considered reliable.

It was concluded that from the set of data that were studied, only the following sub-sets could be considered reliable:

As the process of obtaining and archiving of OGSNK/GSN hydrochemical data in all regions of the former USSR (Russia) experienced problems similar to those in the Lower Don region, we have reason to believe that the reliability of OGSNK/GSN data for other regions also needs critical assessment (Zhulidov at al., in press). Apart from the studied components, it also concerns other compounds, including phenols, oil products and particularly heavy metals (Zhulidov at al., 1997; Zhulidov and Emetz, 1998). Unfortunately, a focused study of this issue has received virtually no coverage in the scientific literature.


Zhulidov A.V. and V.M. Emetz. 1998. Heavy Metals, Natural and Anthropogenic Impacts. Former Soviet Union Water Quality Assessment. UNESCO, WHO, UNEP, Chapman and Hall, London, (in press).

Zhulidov A.V., J.V.Headley, D.F.Pavlov, R.D.Robarts, L.G.Korotova, V.V.Fadeev, O.V.Zhulidova, Y.Volovik and V.V.Khlobystov. 1998. Distribution and Levels of Organochlorine Insecticides and Herbicide Trifluralin in Rivers of the Russian Federation. Environ. Qual. 27:1356-1366.

Zhulidov A.V., J.V.Headley, R.D.Robarts, A.M.Nikanorov and A.A.Ischenko. 1997. Atlas of Russian Wetlands: Biogeography and Metal Concentrations, NHRI Press, Canada, 350 pp.

For a copy of the full report, contact:

Suzanne Ponton
Co-ordinator of Communications
GEMS/Water Collaborating Centre
Environment Canada
National Water Research Institute
P.O. Box 5050
Burlington, Ontario L7R 4A6 Canada
Phone (905) 336-4884
Fax (905) 336-4582

Third WHO/Europe Ministerial Conference on Environment and Health London, UK – June 16-18, 1999

The conference was held under the auspices of the Regional Office for Europe of the World Health Organization (WHO/Europe) to approve an agenda to improve health and the environment in Europe. It was attended by 70 ministers of Health and of Environment and 1,000 participants from the 51 countries of the WHO European region. Canada and the USA, as member states of the UN Economic Commission for Europe (UNECE), Argentina, Australia, as well as international organizations such as the OECD, UNEP, UNICEF, IUCN, the World Bank and GLOBE (Global Legislators for a Balanced Environment) were represented.

Under the general theme of Action in Partnership, the conference strongly reinforced the important linkages between human health and environment and the need to address them in concrete terms. The agenda included discussion on such topics as children’s health and the environment, public participation, access to environmental information, water, and climate change.

Thirty five European countries signed the Protocol on Water and Health which aims to combat water-related diseases. It will come into force and become legally binding when ratified by 16 UNECE countries. By signing this new Protocol, countries have expressed their intention to take appropriate measures:

to ensure adequate sanitation and supplies of wholesome drinking-water;
protect water resources,
and implement effective systems for monitoring and responding to situations likely to result in outbreaks of water-related diseases.
Europe has failed to meet the UN’s targets of safe supplies of drinking water for all and for safe rivers, lakes and seas. One in seven people in the European region (over 120 million people) do not have access to safe drinking water. Water-related diseases, such as cholera, typhoid fever and hepatitis A, are reappearing in some European countries. The World Bank estimates that it would require US $6 billion a year to solve water and sanitation problems worldwide.

Environmental Quality on the Rise in North America and the United Kingdom

The following information was obtained from a media release from The Fraser Institute, an independent public policy organization based in Vancouver, Canada, which released the above report in April. While the release, and the report, covered a broad range of environmental issues, only items of particular interest to SIL members are printed here.

According to the media release, the report shatters the misconception that environmental quality is deteriorating in Canada, the United States, Mexico, and the United Kingdom. The study proves that, in most instances, objectives for protecting human health and the environment are being met, pollution and wastes are being controlled, and resources and land are being sustained and managed effectively.

In addition to the overall index of environmental quality, the report includes indicators designed to help the public assess more accurately the state of the environment in several key areas: air quality, water quality, natural resources, land use and condition, solid wastes, energy, pesticides, toxic releases, and wildlife.

Some specific findings of the study are:

The 100 page study, developed in conjunction with the Pacific Research Institute for Public Policy of San Francisco and the Institute of Economic Affairs in London, England, includes a composite index which one of the authors of the study, Dr. Laura Jones, says is the ‘… environmental equivalent of GDP.’

For more information, or for a copy of the report, contact:

Suzanne Walters
Director of Communications
The Fraser Institute

or you can read it on line at: