Central Asia & Russia: Water deficits to emerge in Kazakhstan

21 February 2018

The 12-month forecast indicates that conditions of water deficit will prevail over much of the region, with surpluses in European Russia.

Severe deficits are forecast for Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan, and primarily moderate deficits in western Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan. However, deficits may reach exceptional levels in the Fergana Valley and other pockets.

Deficits are forecast in the Syr Darya Basin in Uzbekistan and leading northward through Kazakhstan. Deficits are also forecast farther west along the Ural River as it flows through Kazakhstan and Orenburg, Russia, and also in eastern Kazakhstan. In Russia, moderate to severe deficit conditions are forecast for the Ob River Basin, along the Pechora Sea in the north, and from the Yamal Peninsula along the Kara Sea.

Both deficits and surplus conditions are forecast in western Russia with intense surpluses near Rybinsk Reservoir and moderate surpluses along the Volga River. Farther east, past the Urals, surplus conditions are forecast for the Vakh River Basin and the Tom River Basin.

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

The near-term forecast through April indicates that exceptional surpluses in European Russia will shrink and downgrade in severity, though widespread severe surpluses will continue to emerge, and will remain intense from St. Petersburg to the Rybinsk Reservoir, and in Murmansk. Conditions of exceptional surplus will emerge in the Vakh River Basin stretching east across the Yenisei River between the Angara and Podkamennaya Tunguska Rivers.

Deficits east of Yekaterinburg, Russia will upgrade from moderate to extreme, while deficits in and around the Yamal Peninsula downgrade from exceptional to severe. Deficits in Turkmenistan and Uzebekistan will downgrade to moderate. Conditions in Kazakhstan are expected to transition away from surplus to deficit.

From May through July much of the region will transition to deficits of varying severity, with conditions of both deficit and surplus in European Russia and in the Yenisei River Basin. Deficts in Turkmenistan and Ukbekistan are expected to become intense, as will deficits in western Kazakhstan, particularly along the Ural River. A vast stretch of severe to extreme deficits will emerge in the Ob River Basin, including the Irtysh and its tributary, the Tobal River.

The forecast for the final months – August through October – indicates diminished extent of defict conditions in Russia and a slight downgrade of deficits in Central Asia.

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

About a month's worth of snow fell on Moscow in early February during a 36-hour period, killing one person, downing 2,000 trees, disrupting power, and delaying over 200 flights. Military troops were deployed in the city and nearby regions to help clear the record-breaking 22 inches of snow, the biggest snowfall in a century according to one Russian meteorologist. The citizenry of Moscow, unaccustomed to snow-related school cancellations, was reportedly shocked by the mayor’s decision to relieve school children from attending classes.

The record snowstorm blanketed Russia's Central Federal District, which produces about 22 percent of the country’s wheat, raising expectations for the next wheat harvest. This season's heavy snow cover will protect developing plants from harsh temperatures and spring snowmelt will provide moist growing conditions.

Russian authorities are discussing a pilot plan to export drinking water from its Far East peninsula of Kamchatka to China's southern provinces. Poor water quality in China spurred interest in the project, but some Russian academics doubt the economic feasibility, citing the large expense of transporting water over such a distance. Kamchatka, unlike some Russian territories, does not share a land border with China so the water would travel by sea. Though other countries have successfully engaged in water transfer - in Central Asia and Malaysia, for example - the transfer has been by pipeline.

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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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