Central Asia & Russia: Water deficits in Turkmenistan, severe on Amu Darya River

25 June 2018

The 12-month forecast 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. Moderate deficits are forecast from the southern Yamal Peninsula into the Central Siberian Plateau.

In European Russia, widespread surpluses of varying severity are forecast for the Don River Basin, Volga Uplands, upper TransVolga, and the Upper Volga to Rybinsk Reservoir.

Exceptional surpluses are expected in northern Kazakhstan, and surpluses of varying severity in southern regions as well as in eastern Kyrgyzstan. Moderate deficits are forecast along the Ural River in northwestern Kazakhstan leading to Orenburg, Russia. Severe to exceptional deficits are forecast for central Kyrgyzstan. In the eastern portions of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, and Tajikistan severe deficits are forecast, with primarily moderate deficits in western Turkmenistan.

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

The forecast through August in Russia indicates that surplus conditions will shrink in European Russia and transition to both deficit and surplus (shown in purple) in the Northern European Plain. Surpluses in the Upper Ob River region and the Tom River Basin will diminish somewhat in both extent and intensity but remain widespread. Moderate surpluses are expected along the Lower Ob, but moderate to extreme deficits will increase in the Bolshoy Yugan River watershed in the Middle Ob. Conditions of both deficit and surplus will increase in the Podkamennaya Tunguska watershed, a tributary of the Yenisei River, as transitions occur. Widespread deficits along the Pechora Sea through Yamal Peninsula and into the Central Siberian Plateau will retreat considerably, transitioning to surpluses in western Yamal.

In Kazakhstan, surpluses reaching exceptional intensity will continue in the north. Deficits are forecast for Turkmenistan, eastern Uzbekistan, central Kyrgyzstan, and Tajikistan, and will be most intense in eastern Turkmenistan and central Kyrgyzstan. Deficits are expected to be severe along the Amu Darya and Zaravshan Rivers. Surpluses are forecast for eastern Kyrgyzstan.

From September through November, surpluses in northern European Russia will diminish, but those in the Don River Basin and the Volga Uplands will persist with intensity, and surpluses will re-emerge around Rybinsk Reservoir. Surpluses will increase between the Lower Ob and Taz Rivers south of the Gulf of Ob and will upgrade in intensity. Surpluses of varying severity will continue to emerge in the Lower Ob and Tom River Basins. Severe surpluses will emerge along the Middle Ob River as it veers east, but deficits will persist in the surrounding region, including the Bolshoy Yugan River watershed to the south, downgrading to moderate.

Significant surpluses will persist in northern Kazakhstan, and will re-emerge in northwestern Aktobe Region. Deficits will increase slightly in Tajikistan, diminish in central Kyrgyzstan, and become somewhat more intense in Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan. Surpluses are expected to persist in eastern Kyrgyzstan.

The forecast for the final months – December through February – indicates that deficits will downgrade in Turmenistan and Uzbekistan, intensify in Tajikisan, and emerge in eastern Kazakhstan and the Central Siberian Plateau.

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

Uzbekistan is reducing its rice cultivation area by 40 percent this year, from 162,000 to 94,000 hectares (400,000 to 232,000 acres), due to water shortages across the country. Rice prices spiked by 16.7 percent in May despite the government’s efforts to buffer the supply drop by releasing reserves. The country’s president stressed the need to increase cultivation of beans and other more water-conservative crops.

The outlook for Russian wheat production has been cut by the country's leading agricultural consulting firms due to cold wet weather in Siberia and the Urals, two key spring wheat-producing regions. Last year's favorable weather produced a record harvest, insuring stockpiles that can be used to offset reductions this year, keeping exports high regardless of lower 2018 yields.

A salt storm that kicked up over part of the dried-out Aral Sea damaged agriculture and livestock herds in Uzbekistan and northern Turkmenistan. The thick "rain" of salt, laced with pesticides and fertilizers from nearby farms, canceled flights and caused breathing problems. Though such storms are not uncommon, this was reportedly the most far-reaching to date.

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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