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Partnerships for enhanced engagement in research (PEER)
Cycle 4 (2015 Deadline)

Mitigating the competition for water in Amudarya River basin, Central Asia, by improving water use efficiency 

PI: Kakhramon Djumaboev ((, International Water Management Institute, Central Asia Sub-Regional Office
U.S. Partner: James Ayars, USDA-ARS Water Management Unit
Project Dates:  November 2015 - October 2018

Project Overview

The growing population of Central Asia has resulted in an increased demand for water for food and hydropower generation. Most of the renewable water resources are transboundary, with the main rivers flowing through several states. The hydropower generation potential is upstream, where the key reservoirs regulate the river flow, while the irrigated land, requiring 80% of the river flow, is located downstream. With water in short supply the competition for water between hydropower upstream and agriculture downstream results in reduced water use efficiency and, overall, in reduced basin-wide water productivity. Prior to recent changes, the operational regime of the upstream reservoir gave priority to upstream hydropower needs in the Syrdarya River basin, while the downstream states faced significant losses for irrigation. Developing the upstream hydropower potential may cause further reduction of water availability downstream during the crop-growing season. Under the current operating practices of the upstream reservoir, which prioritizes the needs of agriculture in the Amudarya River basin, the upstream states face significant energy shortages. The issue is very politically sensitive, when a win for one side means a loss for the other. Under these conditions securing water for agriculture through increased water use efficiency is critical for Central Asian states (Karimov et. Al, 2012).

The solution for the problem is highly complicated because of significant shortage of water to supply the needs of both – water for food and water for energy in Aral Sea basin. This project takes a two-step approach. The first is determining water and energy “gains” through increasing current water use efficiency and reducing current energy use intensity in different sectors (such as agriculture, domestic water and energy supply, industry, and power generation), which can be considered while supplying the water and energy needs of upstream and downstream users. The second is considering the above-indicated gains of demand management while analyzing benefits of cooperation. This study will focus on estimating gains through improving water and energy use in agriculture, only. Close cooperation will be established between the International Water Management Institute (IWMI) Central Asia, the United States Department of Agriculture – Agricultural Research Service (USDA-ARS), and local partners, including specialists from the Research and Design Institute UzGIP under the Ministry of Agriculture and Water Management, Uzbekistan. The project will increase the knowledge base of water management institutes in both river basins by proposing improved irrigation technologies and management alternatives that will result in improved water use efficiency and productivity and that have high potential for adoption. Policy makers will also gain expertise by learning about potential solutions that can mitigate growing competition for water between the food and energy sectors.
Summary of Project Activities

During the past three years, the project completed all the project activities and outputs outlined in the initial work plan. The research plan consisted of the following three research steps: 1) Systematizing/creating/updating a spatial data base for estimating the sub-basin water and energy use efficiency using a combination of archival data collection, field data collection, and remote sensing and geographical information system (RS/GIS) methods; 2) Learning lessons from: highly productive areas (‘Bright Spots’) developed by farmers; projects implemented in past in the region, and; the experience of USDA-ARS in achieving on farm and basin scale water savings. Compiling a list of alternative technologies/water management strategies; 3) Assessing the potential impact of improvements in the water use efficiency and energy use intensity on the downstream water availability and environment. Within each of these steps, there were several activities and outputs which were completed.

One of the main objectives of this research project was to identify management practices and strategies to improve water and energy use in the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins of Central Asia. Specifically, the project focused on assessment of water-use efficiency and energy-use intensity of different irrigation schemes at two sites in Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. Specific achievements of the project to date are: (i) a geodatabase for the two study areas containing over 40 thematic maps has been developed; (ii) demonstration of water-saving technologies and assessment of irrigation efficiency for furrow, gated pipe and drip irrigation schemes in the study area was undertaken; and, (iii) evaluation of water-saving technologies and methods documenting the costs and benefits to the government, farmers, and the society.

4-97 Farmer Training4-97 Farmer Training 2
The project team provides water management best practices to farmers and stakeholders in the Kashkadarya region of Uzbekistan.

Lessons to date indicate a high value and utility of applying findings from project activities and outputs to improve water management practices and increase water and energy saving. Therefore, it is very important that the results, data, and evidence generated by this PEER funded project be promoted and used as a basis for informing and impacting policy decisions at the local, national, and regional levels. Specifically, data and information from the geodatabase can inform water and energy management practices at the farm level, e.g. the crop classification maps and evapotranspiration (ET) maps can be used to calculate specific crop water requirements by location and crop stage. Educating decision makers about the costs and benefits about water-saving technologies (compared to the status quo) could foster policies to increase the uptake of such technologies, which could improve water-use efficiency in the region, which is paramount given that agriculture plays a huge role in the economic development of the two riparian countries and that water scarcity is becoming an increasingly significant policy issue that needs to be addressed.

The overarching objective of project activities was to support informed and evidence-based decision making by sharing the results, data, and evidence from our PEER project with policymakers, water users, and civil society. During the last year of the project, the team did their best to translate the project outputs into meaningful and sustainable development impacts. The supplemental grant helped fund activities to translate project data, results, and evidence into user-friendly policy documents and multimedia materials, which can be easily accessed by policymakers and other relevant stakeholders, which should then enable them to develop informed and evidence-based policies and practices.

The project findings to date show that only three water saving technologies (gated pipes; polyethylene film; and drip irrigation) are used at the study sites with little consideration of suitability of these technologies or other alternatives to particular crop or farm conditions. The geodatabase contains data (e.g., crop type, biomass growth, ET, soil type, etc.) that can be used to identify water saving solutions for specific crops, growth stage and location. The geodatabase contains over 40 thematic maps and an inventory of alternative water saving technologies that can be used for making informed decisions at local, national, and regional levels. The evaluation and economic analysis of water-saving technologies and practices demonstrates the potential for water and energy saving and improved agricultural outcomes, which should be shared with relevant stakeholders in the two developing countries whose populations are highly dependent on agriculture in their daily lives (e.g., income and nutrition).

The team made a strong effort to share project results, data and evidence with the community and policymakers through multimedia materials. This involved a range of communication channels selected depending on the data and/or audience. The geodatabases for Zafarabad and Karshi Steppe, for example, were disseminated in hard copies and USB storage devices and shared with the local, national and regional water authorities, WUAs, and donor organizations. This has enabled easy access to the geodatabase information on site characteristics, enabling remote users with no internet connection to access the information. Increasing the user base for the geodatabase will help ensure it is tested and assessed by more people, enabling useful feedback on information contained in the database. To increase knowledge about the general project information and findings on water saving technology options, new printed materials including brochures and factsheets in local languages Russian and English were developed. Additional material have been made available in digital form on the IWMI-CA webpage and social media platforms on Facebook. The data and information sharing was supported with direct contact with relevant stakeholders (office and field visits), participation in external events (e.g. national and regional symposiums, conferences, roundtable discussions), and through organizing targeted workshops that brought together water practitioners, researchers, decision makers and the donor community.

The project team organized three workshops to disseminate information to policymakers and to draft policy recommendations on the use of water-saving technologies based on evidence acquired through work on the PEER project. The PI and project team disseminated PEER project research findings by engaging farmers and policymakers. Two workshops were convened in Uzbekistan to discuss project results: a hands-on workshop near the Karshi steppe site for mid-level decision makers and farmers, including field visits and discussion of good practices, and a second workshop in Tashkent for high-level policy makers to disseminate research results on effective water- and energy-saving methods in agricultural production, as well as on the benefits of using decision-support tools such as GIS and RS/EO mapping tools and data in policymaking. The third workshop and training were organized in Khujand, Tajikistan. The workshops involved relevant members of the governments of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan, as well as other regional stakeholders in the efforts to develop a regional water management strategy and policy framework on water use. Special focus was given to innovative methods and strategies in water policy and governance to engage stakeholders in solving complex problems in the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins. In all of the workshops, the organizers presented community findings and proposed specific recommendations to improve management practices and policies.

The project team has also coordinated with local universities, research organizations, and other parts of civil society to achieve a stronger policy impact. The PI and the project team made concerted efforts to engage with local universities, research organization, and other parts of civil society to continuously share project findings and promote their use as evidence bases in other research projects (e.g., student theses, research papers, peer-reviewed publications, etc.) to increase the visibility of project results, data, and evidence and promote their application in practice and policymaking.

The project activities aimed to translate the project results and outputs into long-lasting impact. This will be hopefully in the form of a combination of policy changes and demand side resource use improvements triggered by improved knowledge on water saving technology solutions. Governments in the regional currently provide incentives that at times are incompatible with agricultural sustainability goals. For instance, both water and energy for agriculture are subsidized encouraging excess water use. However the governments also subsidize water saving technologies, e.g. Uzbek government provides subsidized plastic granules from “UzbekNefteGaz” state company for pipe and polyethylene film production that are key materials used in the three most common water saving technologies found at the study sites. The project activities tried to help reduce unsustainable practices by increasing knowledge through user-friendly decision support tools, such as an atlas containing GIS and RS/EO based mapping tools, and information about alternate technologies for water saving, resulting in evidence-based policymaking and improved water management practices. By bringing together government officials, authorities on water use, farmers, researchers, and other stakeholders in workshops, the team hoped to connect theory, practice, and policy, which will then result in outcomes and impacts that will benefit the livelihood of millions of people in Central Asia.

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