Central Asia & Russia: Water deficits to moderate in Turkmenistan & Uzbekistan

17 August 2018

The 12-month forecast through April 2019 indicates widespread surpluses reaching exceptional levels in the Upper Ob and Tom River Basins in Russia, severe surpluses along the Irtysh and Ishim Rivers, and moderate surpluses on the Lower Ob River. Severe surpluses are forecast for the Vakh River, a tributary of the Ob, but moderate to severe deficits are expected in the Bolshoy Yugan River watershed in the Middle Ob region.

Intense deficits are forecast in the Caucasus, with both deficits and surpluses in the North Caucasus. Deficits are also forecast for the middle Ural River and may be severe around Orenburg, Russia just north of western Kazakhstan.

In European Russia, widespread surpluses of varying severity are forecast, as well as conditions of both surplus and deficit as transitions occur.

In Central Asia, intense deficits are forecast for Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, western Kazakhstan, central Kyrgyzstan, and eastern Tajikistan. Deficits will be exceptional on the Caspian coast. Surpluses are forecast for eastern Kyrgyzstan and northern Kazakhstan.

The 3-month composites (below) for the same 12-month period show the evolving conditions in more detail.

The forecast through October indicates that deficits will moderate overall in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, western Kazakhstan, and central Kyrgyzstan. However, conditions may be more severe along the Amu Darya River as it flows through eastern Turkmenistan, along the Zaravshan River through eastern Uzbekistan, and along the Ural River through northwestern Kazakhstan into Russia. Moderate deficits will emerge in central Kazakhstan; surpluses will persist in the north but conditions of both deficit and surplus are forecast as transitions occur.

In Russia, deficits will downgrade in the Caucasus and North Caucasus. Deficits will persist along the Ural River around Orenburg, and a broad path of primarily mild deficits will emerge from there leading northeast to join moderate deficits in the Bolshoy Yugan River watershed in the Middle Ob region. Surpluses are forecast along the Ob, Irtysh, and Ishim Rivers and in the Tom River watershed. A wide band of surplus in the eastern Ob River watershed will extend to the Gulf of Ob as deficit regions near the Gulf transition to surplus.

From November through January, northern Kazakhstan is forecast to transition from surplus to intense deficit while relatively moderate deficit conditions are forecast elsewhere in Central Asia. Surpluses will persist in eastern Kyrgyzstan and will emerge in central Tajikistan, with severe to extreme deficits in the east. The pattern of anomalies in Russia is expected to be similar to the forecast for the preceding three months with the following exceptions: Extreme deficits will increase in the Middle Ural River region as deficits across northern Kazakhstan reach into Russia; conditions on the Irtysh and Ishim Rivers will transition from surplus to deficit; and in European Russia, exceptional surpluses will re-emerge in the Don River Basin, the Volga Uplands, and the Upper Volga region.

The forecast for the final months – February through April – indicates moderate to extreme deficits in central Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, and a transition from intense surplus to mild deficit in the Don River and Volga regions of Russia.

(It should be noted that forecast skill declines with longer lead times.)

Uzbekistan’s foreign minister recently broke the administration’s silence on neighbor Tajikistan’s resumed construction of the Rogun Dam, a major hydroelectric power project. Minister Komilov spoke carefully in a change of tone from Uzbekistan’s historical opposition to the dam: “Go ahead and build it, but we hold to certain guarantees in accordance with these conventions that have been signed by you” (translation), referring to UN conventions on shared use of the Amu-Darya and Syr-Darya rivers. The statement is in contrast with the prior administration's entrenched opposition stance, and is seen as a sign that current Uzbek leadership seeks a thaw in relations, including renewal of cross-border trade and cooperation in counter-terrorism.

Spring drought reportedly prevented Turkmenistan from reaching its grain harvest target this year, threatening bread and flour shortages. Many people in Turkmenistan have experienced flour shortages since 2016, resulting in bread and flour rationing. As in past years, low yields could result in government officials losing their jobs. In mid-July of this year, officials in Dashoguz Province reportedly beat leaders of collective farms for failing to meet grain quotas.

Russian spring crops such as oilseeds are suffering from inclement weather patterns in recent months. Lack of precipitation plummeted soil moisture in South Russia to a five-year low, while cool rainy weather in the seeding period depressed Western Siberian crops.

There are numerous regions around the world where country borders are contested. ISciences depicts country boundaries on these maps solely to provide some geographic context. The boundaries are nominal, not legal, descriptions of each entity. The use of these boundaries does not imply any judgement on the legal status of any territory, or any endorsement or acceptance of disputed boundaries on the part of ISciences or our data providers.

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Many analyses reported in ISciences-authored blog posts are based on data generated by the ISciences Water Security Indicator Model (WSIM). Other sources, if used, are referenced in footnotes accompanying individual posts. WSIM is a validated capability that produces monthly reports on current and forecast global freshwater surpluses and deficits with lead times of 1-9 months at 0.5°x0.5° resolution. This capability has been in continuous operation since April 2011 and has proven to provide reliable forecasts of emerging water security concerns in that time-frame. WSIM has the ability to assess the impacts of water anomalies on people, agriculture, and electricity generation. Detailed data, customized visualizations, and reports are available for purchase.

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