For my first two weeks in Kiev I found myself in hot water only once; when trying to buy a pair of running shoes (кроссовкa or ‘crasovka’ is running shoe, красотка or ‘crasotka’ is beautiful woman) with my sub-standard knowledge of Russian.
As you may have heard, Russia and the Ukraine have failed to reach a deal regarding the sale of Russian gas to the Ukraine. But an inadequate supply of gas seems to be a problem in the Ukraine generally. Since arriving in Kiev on the first of June, our area of Kiev had no hot water for nearly two weeks. Ukraine seems to have a rolling supply of hot water whereby one area has it for a certain time before it loses it and another area which previously had no access, regains such access. Friends inform me this is not a new problem.
But the manner in which the Ukrainian authorities manage their inadequate supply of hot water seems rather inefficient to me. Usage is limited not by raising the cost of hot water but by cutting off sections of the country for a certain period of time. During this time I would boil hot water and mix it with cold water to form my own hot water. This takes much longer, is less enjoyable, makes me less clean, and carries with it the risk of burning oneself.
When the hot water returns, as you would expect, we have it on the highest setting and have much longer showers than normal. Nearly two weeks later warm showers are considered somewhat of a luxury, but one that is completely free. The low price of hot water means people do not think twice about leaving the hot water running for no reason in between washing the dishes and going to answer the phone, for instance.
Perhaps demand would be better managed not by cutting people off but by raising prices. Leaving the choices to the individual would be best. Then instead of having two weeks of mixing boiling and cold water myself and then two weeks of extremely hot, high-pressured and long showers, I might choose instead a month of relatively short and simply warm showers.