CA Water Info
Home Send e-mail Site's map Feedback Search
News Events Sites Database Knowledge Base Forum

←  Index


Print  Print


Myratgeldy Akmammedov
Minister of Water Management of Turkmenistan

Currently Turkmenistan is implementing a large-scale program for the development of central water-supply and sanitation systems in cities and settlements, including rural. For central supply of drinking water to population, about 2% of country’s water resource out of the total water consumption is used. As population grows, individual house-building develops and settlements are improved (creation of green zones, fountain development), a need for central water-supply becomes higher. In the total volume of central water supply, the share of groundwater is more than 55% and this figure tends to increase since currently all velayats (national provinces) have enough fresh groundwater reserves to meet largely household and drinking needs of population.

Complete meeting of people’s demand for safe drinking water and adequate sanitation is a priority task of the Government of Turkmenistan at present and in the next decades. In order to fulfill this important task, a specialized drinking water-supply and sanitation enterprises function in urban area. Besides, special water-supply enterprises for rural settlements function within velayat administrations. Currently, these services operate the whole water main and sewerage network, treatment structures. Drinking water supply services operate wells and huge infrastructure.

In the recent 9 years, under the sectoral program of central water-supply and sanitation development, 4 large water-supply enterprises have been constructed in Turkmenistan. These enterprises were designed for future needs of growing population. The total capacity of the constructed clear drinking water plants is 610 thousand m3/day.

A huge program is undertaken to construct large desalination plants in the areas that lack sources of domestic and drinking water, meeting operating standards.

Particularly, in 2007, by order of the President of Turkmenistan, construction of a large desalination plant was started in the very west rayon center Esengula on the Caspian coast. The plant is to provide desalinated sea-water of drinking quality not only to the rayon center but also to near rural settlements.

For a long time, it was a common practice for Turkmenistan to construct local small-capacity desalination plants based on membrane technology and back osmosis method for schools, kindergartens and food enterprises, especially in Dashoguz velayat in the zone of environmental disaster of Aral.

Regulation of supply from the central water-supply systems plays an important role in the improvement of access to water and sanitation in urban and rural areas. In particular, construction of vertical drainage and use of pumped water for irrigation of green plantations, fountains, fire basins, car washing and industrial equipment allows release of a share of drinking-quality water used previously for these needs. Moreover, pumped water contributes to lowering of water tables and to improvement of sanitary conditions in cities and settlements.

In the nearest future, it is planned to build hundreds kilometers of water mains, reconstruct the existing network, drill new water wells, and construct large sewerage stations with biological treatment under a new huge program. The biologically treated sewages from industrial plants will be used for irrigation of forage and technical crops. Design estimates have been made for the development of irrigation schemes for combined utilization of household effluents and collector-drainage water from the settlements surrounding the city of Ashgabad. A special research program was developed to explore an impact of sewages on soils, groundwater, and agricultural crops.

The total agricultural area amounts to 40.2 Mha, of which about 2 Mha are arable lands and almost fully irrigated, and 95% of Turkmenistan is desert and semi-desert pastures. The irrigated area per capita is 0.32 ha.

The population of Turkmenistan is about 7 millions, of which 54% is rural people. Agriculture is still the largest employment sector since it accounts for nearly 49% of labor force.

The available water resources are comprised mainly of contracted share of four transboundary rivers flowing through several states. Those rivers are Amudarya, Murghab, Tejen, and Atrek. The Amudarya River accounts for about 90% of the national water supply. Water resources from this river are distributed among main canals, including the Karakum-river, which stretches to 1300 km and almost reaches the Caspian Sea.

According to existing agreements, water withdrawal is 25-26 billion m3/year under normal and high flow probabilities in the above-mentioned rivers, while it decreases substantially in low-water years. Water consumption per capita decreased from 4511 m3 in 1995 to 3571 m3 in 2005. As population grows, by 2010, consumption may come down to 2134 m3/person.

The main water consumer is irrigated agriculture in Turkmenistan. Annually, nearly 90% of water or 9500 m3/ha is used in agricultural production. The share of water used in drinking water-supply and other economic sectors is minor.

The current Law establishes the first-priority meeting of drinking and domestic needs. In particular, the use of fresh groundwater for needs different from drinking and domestic ones generally is not allowable. Only for the zones, where surface sources are absent and enough groundwater reserves are available, the use of this water for purposes other than drinking and domestic needs can be permitted on temporal basis.

Currently, minor needs of domestic sector, industry, energy, and fisheries are met in full, and there is no competition (and particularly contradictions) among water users in Turkmenistan.

Nevertheless, last decades, the national water resources are used in their full volume, and therefore, current water use is based on annually set limits for velayats, etraps (local districts), and specific users. The development of water-using production sectors, including expansion of irrigated area, is possible only through the improvement of water use efficiency and of water management, the use of return water and non-conventional sources.

According to the new Water Law approved and enforced since November 1, 2004, the public management in area of water use and protection is undertaken by the Cabinet of Ministers of Turkmenistan, as well as by duly authorized public agencies responsible for water use regulation and other bodies.

Current water resources management in Turkmenistan is based on three-staged hierarchical system. The authorized public agencies responsible for regulation of water use and protection are the Ministry of Water Resources and the Ministry of Environmental Conservation, respectively. The Ministry of Water Resources includes water management organizations “Suvhojalyk” of 5 velayats and basin water organization “Karakumderyasuvhojalyk”, which is responsible for management of water in inter-velayat waterway Karakumderya. The velayat organizations have their subordinate etrap water management organizations that functions within administrative boundaries of their respective etraps. The Ministry of Environmental Conservation also includes 5 environmental organizations in velayats. It should be noted that the administrative-territorial water management system does not secure efficient management and balanced supply along the hydrographic network. During intensive water use and in low-water years, usually there are cases of frustration of the established water delivery schedules at tails of canals.

At on-farm level, community organizations for water management, such as water user associations or unions have not been established yet. And water management at this level is performed by staff of etrap water management organizations on a basis of contracts signed with farmer-producers. Water discharge and productivity are estimated in general by etrap and daikhan organizations and by average indicators.

The body of all water objects and lands under them, including water-protection zones and belts forms the Public Water Fund of Turkmenistan.

This Water Fund is an exclusive public property. The ownership of interstate (transboundary) waters is determined by agreements between the riparian states.

Hydraulic structures built on the basis of established order for water use and protection can be the property of legal and physical persons.

Water use is free in Turkmenistan.

The water sector of Turkmenistan supports not only irrigated agriculture. Irrigation canals and reservoirs are the sources of domestic, drinking, cultural and household water supply and used for watering livestock and pastures, for fisheries, industries, energy and transport, as well as for recreation, navigation, sports, urban greening, environmental needs and other multiple economic purposes. A branched collector-drainage network, the main function of which is diversion of drainage water and land reclamation, also serves for watering of desert pastures and for fisheries. Main collectors and lakes formed on the basis of CDW are habitats of swimming and waterside birds.

Water sector is a large employer as well; many able-bodies citizens are occupied in this sector in all velayats.

Lack of competition among water-consuming sectors, social needs and environment does not mean that there is no need for the integrated water resources management (IWRM). The legal framework of water relations does not meet present-day requirements and needs to be improved. The administrative-territorial water management system leads to inconsistence of managerial decision within a single basin. There is lack of harmony in use and protection of water resources among different economic sectors, fragmentation in management of interrelated water types (surface, ground, return), gap and insufficient coordination between some chains and levels of water management. Moreover, there is lack of commitment among water management organizations and water users for water productivity improvement. All this calls for a need to implement IWRM gradually and successively.

In order to elaborate and adopt legislative instruments regulating the implementation of IWRM in Turkmenistan, it is necessary to continue raising awareness of different water users about characteristics and advantages of IWRM principles and arrange policy dialogue between economic sectors in form of seminars and round-tables.

One main principle of IWRM is the establishment of community-based water management at on-farm level. Currently, in Turkmenistan water management at the on-farm level is undertaken by farm-users themselves under contract and with technical service of the state water management organizations. The ÕÕth meeting of the public assembly of Turkmenistan in March 2007 adopted the Law on Daikhan Farm and the Law on Daikhan organizations that make provision for the establishment of larger organizations of peasants instead of individual small farmers and tenants. Thus, it would be possible to put in order and improve water management at on-farm level on the basis of such organizations.

At present, Turkmenistan has huge water sector securing water for all economic sectors, including agriculture on the area of more than 2 Mha. The total length of irrigation network is 42.7 thousand km, and collector-drainage network stretches to 35.7 thousand km. There are flood-control dams, with the length of more than 1200 km. There are more that 16 000 hydrostructures on irrigation and drainage network. 16 irrigation reservoirs were constructed, with the total capacity of about 3.2 billion m3. More than 2760 pumping stations, nearly 650 km of service roads and about 700 km of communication lines are operated.

Large investments are allocated for water infrastructure development: fund of the Ministry of Water Resources; state budget; state currency reserves; state development fund for oil and gas industry and mineral resources; and other investors. Investments in water-management construction increased 17 times in 2000 as compared to the year 1995 and almost 11 times in 2007 against 2000. Investment limit allocated for water construction in 2008 exceeds by 43% that of 2007. Besides, more state budget money is allocated for operational needs of water management organizations. For example, money allocations for operational needs increased 38 times in 2000 as compared to 1995 and accounted for more than 140% in 2007 against 2000. In 2008, it is planned to invest in such needs funds that make up 106% of that in the last year. Considerable increase of investments for water infrastructure development and operational needs of water-management organizations is planned in future economic and social development plans.

Water resource is the key factor of economic activity in Turkmenistan. The surface water sources are mainly transboundary. Countries located in transboundary basins are linked through aquatic ecosystems. Any change in water use of one country inevitably will affect interests of other countries. A need for present interlinked and coordinated system of transboundary water management provoked by the nature itself and calls for the establishment and development of cooperation through integrated approaches.

The hydrological characteristics of transboundary river is the division of its basin into three separate zones:

The tensest situation in transboundary water management is observed in the basins of Amudarya and Syrdarya and caused by intensive drying of the Aral Sea, environmental degradation in Prearalie and water shortage in dry years.

The Central Asian countries have enough large experience in settling the interstate water relations and its positive results are acknowledged all over the world. On February 18, 1992, the leaders of Central Asian water agencies signed the Agreement between the states of Central Asia on cooperation in joint management of water use and protection within the interstate sources. Later, in March 1993 this Agreement was approved by the Head of States in Kzyl-Orda. According to the Agreement, the parties established the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination (ICWC) and its executive bodies – BWO “Amudarya” and BWO “Syrdarya”.

Bi- and multilateral agreements were signed on water and energy management and use in the basins of Amudarya. Syrdarya, Chu and Talas.

Over the last 15 years, collaboration of Central Asian countries within ICWC enabled the development of certain methods, style, and order of cooperation in management and use of water resources in the Amudarya River and the Syrdarya River. Such approaches are unique since agreement and planning of actions, correction and allocation of water resources are performed on regular basis within the framework of this cooperation.

However, the course of joint activities and analytical assessments in water-management area indicate to a certain passivity and stagnation of ICWC activity, especially in improvement of the regional water policy and enhancement of legislative basis.

It is well-known that the efficient transboundary basin management requires a new system of national and interstate rules and regulations on the use and protection of water resources, with clear procedures, economic mechanism and criteria. However, at present, there is no systematic work for addressing the above-mentioned problems in the region, while draft agreements drawn up under on-going international programs progress slowly and it is difficult to forecast the date of their signing if so. Because of highly regulated flow in the Syrdarya River, a conflict arose between energy and irrigation use of this flow. However, due to imperfect legal framework for water management and lack of mutually beneficial and efficient mechanism of water-energy exchange, as well as economic problems of the countries, this conflict has not been resolved and the earlier adopted framework agreement has not been amended or improved. Analysis of water use in the region puts in the forefront the issue of saving and efficient use of the resource since the only perspective of regional development is water conservation. The ever increasing demand of growing population, agriculture, and industry can be met only through water saving, demand-based management, and the general line towards water conservation. A certain tendency is observed in this respect but it is not permanent and wide-spread.

The most critical priority tasks are meeting demands of ecosystems and keeping quality of transboundary sources. In this context, it is necessary to elaborate common criteria of water quality assessment in riparian countries. If such criteria differ among the countries, then, for example, water in upstream country may be considered as acceptable in sanitary and hygienic terms, while the same water can be treated as quite polluted in downstream country. Such situation can cause conflicts. Thus, first, at expert level, we need to agree on a procedure and criteria of assessment of surface and ground water quality and identify anthropogenic and natural elements of water pollution. Then, internal standard acts should be brought to agreed by the parties, not necessarily similar indicators.

A very important line of cooperation in transboundary water management and use is creating of environmentally friendly people’s perception. The point is that engineering and organizational solutions often are not effective exactly due to human element. People’s perceptions fall behind rapidly developed technologies. Thus, to secure good living conditions for future generation and sustainable development, we need to fill this gap.

Over the last time, attention of international organizations and donors was focused on problems of the Syrdarya river basin. Indeed, highly-regulated flow, cascade of hydropower stations, relatively smaller quantity of flow and larger development of command areas for irrigated agriculture have led to conflict of interests between energy and irrigation uses and to aggravation of environmental conditions in the river basin. Meanwhile, the critical matters are impending in the Amudarya river basin as well. If efficient preventive measures are not undertaken timely, such matters may develop into intractable problems.

The conservation of ecosystems in the flow formation zone and implementation of erosion-preventive measures are issues of the day. However, huge efforts are made in mid- and downstream zones to secure water by-pass through channel regulation and keep head inflow to main canals. As a result of bank erosion events, every year there is a risk of destruction of crops, settlements and other economic objects located in water strip, and large material and financial resources are spent to avoid and mitigate the consequences. Situation formed on the Amudarya River in January 2008 can be given as an example. Abrupt fall of temperature and prolonged hard frosts caused ice phenomena, such as formation of ice-field in river’s downstream. Firm freezing in the downstream was accompanied by intensive ice movement and frazil ice drift in the midstream. Consequently, first, in area of Birata gauging station and then in many upstream sections ice jams occurred, threatening by rise in water in the river up to catastrophic levels. Many river sections faced a real threat of overflow from the river valley and flooding of settlements and economic entities. Only because of timely and effective measures undertaken by the Government of Turkmenistan, we managed to avoid negative developments. Construction and reclamation facilities from all areas of the country, emergency services, numerous volunteers from coastal settlements of Lebap velayat were enabled to consolidate river banks, repair flood dams, break ice monoliths, and destruct ice jams. Twenty-four-hour watching in all risk river reaches and monitoring over the state of ice, water, banks, and protecting structures were organized. Combating of this disaster continues. The cost of organization and implementation of relevant measures against those dangerous ice phenomena is estimated at millions dollars.

These costs should be considered in the interstate agreements on management of shared transboundary water objects.

The joint and coordinated management of transboundary river basins is one of topical challenges of the present day and a prerequisite of sustainable development in our countries and dignified lives of our nations.