Water resources and energy potential. The region has an abundance of water resources – rivers, lakes, natural and artificial reservoirs, fresh groundwater, mineral, and thermal waters. There are 25 small and medium rivers flowing through Guria with a total length of 598 km and with a river basin area of over 1000 km2. There are 3 lakes in the region (with a total area of 3.5 km2) and 3 water reservoirs (with a total area of 4.4 km2). In 2011, 95 million m3 of water was abstracted from natural water reservoirs and 94.4 million m3 of water was consumed. According to the 2011 data on water abstraction, 96% of the region’s water resources (ground and surface water) are used in the hydropower sector, 2% as drinking water and for household purposes, and the remaining part – for industrial, irrigation, and recreational purposes. Guria is situated along the Black Sea – the water basin of cross-border importance.
The following mineral waters are extracted in Guria: Nabeghlavi (a daily supply of 101.9 m3) and Guliani (unknown supply levels). The supply infrastructure for the Nabeghlavi mineral water is well developed. This mineral water is one of the region’s main exports. However, the use of mineral water resources for recreational, spa, and health purposes is limited due to the lack of adequate infrastructure. The energy potential of thermal waters also remains unexploited. The potential of the Black Sea coastal zone is only partially exploited, which is mainly due to the lack of water supply systems, sewage systems, and efficiently-working wastewater treatment plants. The balneology zone is famous for its unique healing properties (the Ureki, Shekvetili, and Natanebi beaches with “magnetic” sand).
The energy potential of the water resources is not effectively harnessed by the hydroelectric power sector. The geographic location and climatic conditions of the region allow for the construction of small cascading hydropower plants on the rivers of Guria with a total capacity of 80-100 MW, which can be used to satisfy the energy needs of the region and as an additional source of income – through the sale of electricity. There are two hydropower plants in Guria: Bzhuzhhes (on the Bzhuzhi River) and Achhes (on the Achi River) with a total capacity of 12.8 MW. Both these power plants are connected to Georgia’s unified electricity system. In 2007, construction work began on the cascading hydropower plants “Bakhvi Hydro Power”. The power plant system comprises 6 units and generates a total of 60 MW. The construction infrastructure is being put in place. Design work is underway on the power station “Zotihes”. Investment offers are also being drafted. The geodynamic significance of the investment and the associated risks are crucial to ensuring the safety of the region’s inhabitants and protection of the natural environment, and therefore must be taken into account.
There are alternative sources of energy in the region. The direction, speed, and duration of the winds in the Lanchkhuti Municipality meet the parameters of wind resources that are suitable for use as an energy source. A wind turbine can operate on average 127 days a year. Solar energy can be used in small hotels, public buildings, and residential houses to provide a hot water supply. The region has yet to exploit its natural resources of biogas, biomass (hazelnut waste and sawdust), and thermal water in energy production.
Forest resources. The region has an abundance of forest resources that provide various benefits. Forests cover 48% of Guria’s territory. The forest area is 86,400 ha, of which 81,200 ha is occupied by forests only. In 2012, the volume of wood harvested by cutting was 15,700 m3, i.e. 11,600 m3 more than the previous year. This is mainly due to the increased use of wood for construction purposes. Currently, wood is harvested in the area of 7,900 ha under a single special permit for timber production. There are 21 licensed sawmills operating in the region.
The region’s dominant deciduous species is beech (29,370 ha; 6,700,200 m3). A considerable part of the forest area is occupied by hornbeam (2,518 ha; 212,900 m3), acacia (9,786 ha; 57,200 m3) and chestnut (466 ha; 47,100 m3). The coniferous species are dominated by spruce (5,520 ha; 1,926,000 m3), fir (2,900 ha; 1,231,400 m3) and pine (166 ha; 17,000 m3). Among deciduous species with softwood timber, the largest area is occupied by alder (12,398 ha; 1,099,600 m3) and poplar (144 ha; 30,900 m3). The forest undergrowth and shrubs are dominated by cherry laurel, rhododendron and yellow azalea. Bamboo also grows in the region (4 ha; 0,100 m3).
The exploitation of forest resources is crucial to ensuring regional development. Existing timber resources are sufficient to meet both the local needs and the industrial objectives of the region, provided that they are properly harvested and used sustainably.
It should be noted that no inventory of the region’s forest resources has been taken.
Useful minerals. Various mineral resources are mined in the region. So far, 74 permissions to extract mineral resources have been issued. Bentonite clay is mined in the Ozurgeti Municipality. The estimated size of the deposit is over 10 million tonnes. The clay is currently mined and processed in very small quantities. Processing bentonite clay and replacing raw material exports with production exports can significantly increase Ozurgeti’s budget revenues and secure employment for the local population. A peat deposit covers 300 hectares of the Kolkheti National Park. It is used to produce an organic fertilizer that is eco-friendly and suitable for all types of soil (extraction of peat in the Kolkheti National Park is prohibited under international agreements). In Georgia, apatite deposits can only be found in the Ozurgeti Municipality (village of Vakijvari) where they account for 7-10% of all rock deposits. Hematite (red iron) deposits can also be found in this village. There are also copper ores in this area, along with small amounts of lead, silver and zinc. There is a kaolin deposit in the village of Makvaneti, which is 0.4 to 11 m thick. Syenite deposits can be found in the villages of Shemokmedi and Gomi (syenite is an igneous rock that resembles granite and is perfect as a building material). In the village of Nagomari, there is an ochre deposit that is 1.5-2 m thick and has a trivalent iron oxide content of 22.33% (ochre is used in the production of mineral dyes). In the Chokhatauri Municipality, tuff and granite paving materials are mined. The total estimated size of these deposits is 400,000 m3. The Chokhatauri Municipality also has a gold deposit for which no inventory valuation is available. There is a limestone deposit in the Lanchkhuti Municipality. It contains marly, white and grey limestone. This raw material is used in the production of hydraulic lime for construction purposes. There are also several deposits of brick clay in the Lanchkhuti Municipality. The clay is brown, blue-grey or grey-blue in color. In addition, there is a deposit of phillipsite rocks in the Lanchkhuti Municipality. This deposit is mainly composed of the trachytic zeolitic tuffs in volcanic and sedimentary layers. Sand and gravel deposits can be found in the municipalities of Ozurgeti and Lanchkhuti. Tare is used as a raw material in concrete and construction mortar filling, as specified in the relevant standards. There is also an oil field in the Lanchkhuti Municipality. As no inventory records are maintained for available mineral resources, their potential impact on the local economy remains unknown. It is worth noting that the region is designated as an area at high risk of landslides and associated events. For this reason, the extraction of raw materials must be accompanied by engineering and geological studies.