Central Asia & Russia: Severe water deficits forecast for W. Kazakhstan

29 April 2019

The 12-month forecast through December 2019 indicates intense deficits along the northern shore of the Caspian Sea in western Kazakhstan and in central Uzbekistan and the Fergana Valley in the east.

Intense surpluses are forecast in the far northwestern tip of Kazakhstan and across the border into Russia, upstream of Volgograd. Intense surpluses are also forecast for southwestern Turkmenistan, and moderate surpluses in the southeast. Surpluses in eastern Kyrgyzstan are expected to range from moderate to extreme.

In Russia, intense deficits are forecast for the southern reaches of the Tom River Basin and the eastern Yenisei River Basin nearly to Lake Baikal. Moderate deficits are forecast for Trans Volga and the Upper Volga Basin, with more intense deficits south of Nizhny Novgorod. Moderate surpluses are expected in the Middle Ob River Basin in Russia, and moderate to extreme surpluses east of Kemerovo in the northern portion of the Tom River Basin.

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

The forecast through June indicates that surpluses in the Ob River Basin of Russia will shrink and moderate overall. Intense surpluses will persist east of Kemerovo in the northern portion of the Tom River Basin while severe to exceptional deficits will emerge in the basin’s southern reaches. Intense deficits will also emerge in the Yenisei River Basin in the regions of the Nizhnyaya and Podkamennaya Tunguska Rivers and the Angara River. In the Volga region, surpluses will persist northeast of Volgograd, and intense deficits are forecast in the Middle Volga region south of Nizhny Novgorod.

Primarily severe deficits are forecast for western Kazakhstan north of the Caspian Sea, as well as in eastern Uzbekistan’s Fergana Valley leading into Kyrgyzstan. Intense surpluses are expected in eastern Kyrgyzstan and southwestern Turkmenistan, and some moderate surpluses in southeastern Turkmenistan. Scattered surpluses are expected in central Tajikistan and severe deficits in the east.

From July through September, intense deficits will emerge in Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan, western Kazakhstan, and southern South Kazakhstan region, with pockets of exceptional anomalies. Deficits in the Fergana Valley will intensify, becoming extreme. Primarily moderate surpluses are forecast for eastern Kyrgyzstan; moderate deficits are forecast for western Tajikistan. In Russia, many prior areas of surplus will exhibit conditions of both deficit and surplus as transitions occur. Surpluses are forecast for much of the Yamal Peninsula.

The forecast for the final months – October through December – indicates that deficits will moderate in Central Asia. In Russia, surpluses will emerge in the Ob River Basin; across the north from the Kola Peninsula to the northern Ural Mountains; and in the lower Volga Uplands and Trans Volga.

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

In March, torrential rainfall in Turkmenistan caused a dam failure on the Etrek River, claimed the lives of two children during flooding in the Balkan district, and resulted in the drownings of livestock. Electrical service was disrupted for three weeks. Water levels on the Murghab River were reportedly at critical high levels at the end of April. Five people died in Tajikistan as a result of excessive precipitation and Uzbekistan’s capital of Tashkent flooded.

More than 1,000 of Tajikistan’s small glaciers have disappeared in the last 30 years, increasing the risk of drought, landslides, and floods, and signifying the pernicious risk of climate change to affect freshwater supplies of both Tajikistan and Central Asia at large. Climate change is expected to decrease water supply as rising temperatures increase demand for irrigated water. The World Bank Director for Central Asia warned recently that decreased freshwater availability due to climate change will cut crop yields by up to 30 percent in some parts of Tajikistan by the turn of the century.

The Asian Development Bank recently approved a loan of $105.3 million to support servicing and expansion of the regional water supply in Uzbekistan’s Tashkent Province. Water infrastructure in the province dates to the Soviet era, and the growing population and economy in the area necessitates both updates to and expansion of the water distribution system. The project is expected to help ensure that potable water reaches 220,000 people in the two targeted districts of Tashkent. 

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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