Main problems of water resources use in central Asia

The problems with water resources use appeared in Central Asia after 1991 when the USSR had broken up. Before this all problems concerning water use in the Central Asian republics were resolved from the center with regard to the interests of all parties and taking into account the goals and long-term plans of economic development of the Soviet Union. The Soviet system of water relations among republics was based on water sharing limits allotted to each of them and the balance of contractual obligations between the republics and the union center. The USSR disintegration entailed the breakup of the “common pot” principle, and the most sensitive issue here was water sharing. The system that had been operating for many decades collapsed leaving a wealth of unsettled claims which were primarily connected with determination of water intake volumes in conditions of the market economy, reduction of investments into the water use sector, changed operating regimes of large reservoirs (changeover from irrigation to power generation regimes), and others. Disintegration of the Soviet Union put forward the issue of water ownership. Likewise other resources, water happened to be divided by state borders of the new Central Asian states. The time when water was supplied free-of-charge in the USSR had come to an end. This forced the Central Asian countries to start negotiations and to become engaged in water diplomacy. However, the countries failed to reach agreement on direct pay for water, and the barter solutions were adopted: gas for water (Uzbekistan to Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan), water for electricity (Tajikistan to Kazakhstan), etc. It is quite obvious that the actions to ensure water supply should outpace the formation of water needs or, at least, go abreast. Taking into account the time required for designing and construction the planning of such actions will take many decades. The climate changes produce great effect on water resources and their use. It is expected that the consequences of climate changes will be witnessed in all regions of the planet, and Central Asia is no exception to this end. Central Asia covers the territory of five countries: Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. It is situated in the center of the Eurasian continent extending over an area of 3,882,000 km2 and supporting the population of around 72 million. It borders on Afghanistan and Iran in the south, on China in the east, and on Russia in the west and north. Further climate changes will aggravate the complicated situations that has already established here which is distinguished by low precipitations, aridity, sharp weather fluctuations, and uneven distribution of resources. © Springer Nature Switzerland AG 2020.

Zhiltsov S.S. 1, 2, 4 , Zonn I.S. 4, 3 , Orlovsky N.S.5 , Semenov A.V. 4
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  • 1 The Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian Federation, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • 2 Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University), Moscow, Russian Federation
  • 3 Engineering Research Production Center for Water Management, Land Reclamation and Ecology “Soyuzvodproject”, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • 4 S.Yu. Witte Moscow University, Moscow, Russian Federation
  • 5 Blaustein Institute for Desert Research, Ben-Gurion University of the Negev, Beersheba, Israel
Central Asia; Climate; Conflicts; Ecology; Water resources
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