The Neva is a vast river with an average flow of 2500 m³ per second and the catchment area of nearly 300 000 km². Therefore the volume of St Petersburg's sewage load is relatively small, today no more than 2% of the river flow. However, its impact on the water quality of the Neva Bay and the Gulf of Finland has been significant.

St Petersburg, administrative area in grey shading.

The Neva flows through the Neva Bay into the Gulf of Finland. The Neva Bay resembles a lake, as brackish water enters only occasionally. It's water quality depends on the water quality of the Neva River, Ladoga Lake and the wastewater discharges of St Petersburg.The Neva Bay is today separated from the Gulf of Finland by a flood protection barrier, which has a strong impact on the water quality of the Neva Bay and the Gulf of Finland.

Research history

St Petersburg relies on its natural water system: the river has provided drinking water and has served as a sewage recipient. The first severe water problems appeared in the 19th century, when cholera and typhoid became frequent and unwanted visitors. Such water-borne epidemics killed thousands of citizens.

The government of St Petersburg launched a scientific study in order to solve the water supply problem of the city. The aim of the research during the period from 1905 to 1937 was to determine the preconditions and locations for installing sewer outlets for the municipal sewerage system. The first plankton studies were carried out by A.S. Skorikov in 1905 in connection with work done by the city of St. Petersburg to improve the municipal water supply system. Skorikov studied the entire water system (Ladoga Lake, River Neva, Neva Bay and Gulf of Finland) in 1905-1906.

Bacteriological, physico-chemical and biological investigations were continued in 1911 by professor G.V. Khlopin. The most suitable locations for wastewater discharges were identified. Directing wastewater close to the mouth of the northern branch of the Neva would maximise the self-purification process and therefore have only minor impacts to the water basin. For a long time no sewerage project could be considered without taking Khlopin's results into accounts.

The expansion of the city and the growth of its population and industrialisation continued to affect both the inner water bodies and the Neva Bay. This was confirmed by numerous investigations made in the 1930s.

The second period of natural scientific studies(1956-1964) was devoted to obtaining assessments of the water quality by specialists from State Research Institute of Lake and River Fishery and Zoological Institute (USSR Academy of Sciences). The necessity of wastewater treatment facilities became evident when extensive studies of the Neva Bay's sanitary state were carried out in 1960-1963. These studies showed that the pollution level of the Neva Bay had increased drastically since the 1910s. Construction of wastewater treatment plant was recommended.

The last period, starting at the end of 1970s, was connected to the construction of a large-scale complex of structures with the aim to protect St. Petersburg (Leningrad) from floods and to establish municipal wastewater treatment plants. At that time, hydrobiological monitoring of the Neva Bay was arranged by the North-West Administration of the Federal Service of Russia for Hydrometeorology and Environmental Monitoring (Sevzaphydromet). In addition, studies of the circulation of substances and the influence of biological factors on the water quality in the Neva Bay and the eastern Gulf of Finland were made by the Zoological Institute (USSR Academy of Sciences) in 1981-1984 and by the State Hydrological Institute in 1982-1988.

List of studies made on the Neva Bay

Skorikov, A.S. 1910. K faune Nevskoy guby i okrestnyh vod ostrova Kotlin (To a fauna of Neva Bay and neighbouring waters of an island Kotlin). Ezhegodnik Zool. museja Akad. nauk. V. 15. Petrograd, pp. 474-489.

Khlopin, G.V. 1913. Materials on the studies of the Neva Bay water in term of sanitary condition. Report for municipal government, 47 pp. St. Petersburg.

Visloukh, S.M. 1913. Kratkiy otcheyot o biologicheskih issledovaniyakh Nevskoy guby v 1911-1912 godah (A summary of the biological survey in the Neva Bay in 1911-1912). In: Materialy k izucheniju Nevskoj guby (Materials to study of the Neva Bay). Sankt-Peterburg, pp. 215-312.

Visloukh, S.M. 1921. K poznaniju mikroorganizmov v Nevskoj gube (Towards a knowledge of micro-organisms in the Neva Bay). In: Tr. Russ. Gidrolog. Inst., vyp. 1-3, pp. 83-96.

Rylov, V.M. 1923. Zooplankton Nevskoj guby (Zooplankton of the Neva Bay). In: Issledovaniya reki Nevy i eyo bassejna (Researches of the River Neva and its basin), 3. Petrograd, 85 pp.

Kiselev, I.A. 1924. Fitoplankton Nevskoi guby i vostochnoi chasty Finskogo zaliva (Phytoplankton in the Neva Bay and the eastern Gulf of Finland). In: Izv. Ross. Gidrolog. Ins., 88 pp.

Kiseleva, E.I. 1949. Issledovania fitoplanktona jugo-zapadnodnoj chasti Nevskoj guby (A phytoplankon study in the south-western part of the Neva Bay). In: Uchyon. Zapiski Leningr. Un-ta. Serija biol. Nauk, vyp. 21. 126, pp. 142-177.

Sokolova, M.F. 1949. Kolichestvennyj uchyot planktona otkrytogo i pribrezhnogo rajonov Nevskoj guby (The quantitative account of a plankton in the open part and coastal waters of the Neva Bay). In: Uchyon. zapiski Leningr. un-ta. Serija biol. nauk, 21, 126, pp. 67-106.

Kutikova, L.A. 1968. Vozmozhnosti ispolzovaniya kolovratok v biologicheskoy otsenke vody reki Nevy (Opportunities of use of the rotifers in a biological estimation of the River Neva water). In: Zagryaznenie i samoochischenie reki Nevy (Pollution and selfpurification of the River Neva). Bykhovsky, B.E. (ed.). Leningrad, Nauka, pp. 193 - 201.

Nezhikhovsky, R.A. 1981. Reka Neva i Nevskaja guba (The River Neva and the Neva Bay). Leningrad, Gidrometeoizdat, 110 pp.

Nikulina, V.N. and Anochina, L.E. 1987. Floristicheskij sostav planktona i perifitona (Plankton and periphyton composition). In: Nevskaja guba. Gidrobiologicheskie issledovanija (The Neva Bay. Hydrobiological studies). Vinberg, G.G. and Gutelmakher, B.L. (eds.). Leningrad, Nauka, pp. 14-20.

Telesh, I.V. 1986. Sovremennoe sostojanie zooplanktona Nevskoy gubi (Modern state of the zooplankton of the Neva Bay). In: Sbornik nauchnih trydov GosNIORH, vyp. 248, pp. 142-149.

Pidgayko, M.L. 1987. Setnoy plankton otkrytoy chasti Nevskoy guby (The net zooplankton of an open part of the Neva Bay). In: Nevskaja guba. Gidrobiologicheskie issledovanija (The Neva Bay. Hydrobiological studies). Vinberg, G.G. and Gutelmakher, B.L. (eds.). Leningrad, Nauka, pp. 103-105.

Telesh, I.V. 1987. Kolovratki i rakoobraznie planktona (The rotifers and crustaceans of plankton). In: Nevskaja guba. Gidrobiologicheskie issledovanija (The Neva Bay. Hydrobiological studies). Vinberg, G.G. and Gutelmakher, B.L. (eds.). Leningrad, Nauka, pp. 82-103.

Telesh, I.V. 1987. Zooplankton sistemi reka-estyariy na primere reki Nevi i Nevskoy gubi (The zooplankton of a system the river-estuary on an example of the Neva river and the Neva Bay). Candidate dissertation. Leningrad, 246 pp.

Basova, S., and Lange, E. 1998. Trends in late summer phytoplankton in the Neva Bay and eastern Gulf of Finland during 1978 to 1990. In: Memoranda Soc. Fauna Flora Fennica 74, pp. 1-14.

Current state of Environment

A satelite view of the Neva Bay

Fresh-water plankton species have dominated in the Neva Bay, but the species show great year-to-year fluctuations due to varying environmental conditions. The community has essentially consisted of plankton species transported from Lake Ladoga, and the minority has been brackish water species. At present time, the Neva Bay is suffering from significant anthropogenic effects, which are already visible in the phytoplankton communities as well as in the increase in littoral filamentous green algae.

High turbidity and rapid throughflow of water limit the algal production in the bay, and due to the high outflow the eutrophication effects of the catchment area are mainly conducted into the Gulf of Finland.

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