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

Risk management and risk assessment of water resources of the Amu Darya river basin under conditions of climate change and construction of large reservoirs

PI: Inom Normatov (inomnor@mail.ru), Institute of Water Problems, Hydropower, and Ecology of the Academy of Sciences of the Republic of Tajikistan
U.S. Partner: Mary Brodzik, University of Colorado at Boulder
Project Dates: December 1, 2015 - November 30, 2018

Project Overview

Central Asia is one of the most active regions in terms of demographic change, with annual population growth rates of 1.5-2%. Today more than 64 million people live in the region, and future population growth will likely lead to water consumption growth as well. According to some calculations, by 2030 water consumption in Central Asia will increase by 15–20% over present levels. In addition, resources from natural drainage in the Aral Sea basin have been greatly reduced, and water deficiency is an increasing problem, with water demand now reaching 100-110% of capacity in the Amudarya river basin. Despite the water shortages in the lower basins, additional reservoirs continue to be built and plans implemented for irrigation expansion. Continuation of such alarming scenarios has very serious consequences for ensuring water security in the region, and this calls for urgent measures to adapt to significant climate changes and promote efficient water resource management in the region.

About 60% of the water that potentially flows to the lower Aral Basin originates in the high mountains of Tajikistan. Existing dams like Nurek and those under construction like Rogun control and regulate the annual flow regime. The demand for winter hydropower generation in the upstream countries where the dams are located conflicts with the summer demand for irrigation in the downstream parts of the basin. In addition, the actually available water resources are less than those stated in official negotiations due to siltation and reduced storage capacities, and summer runoff generation has been affected by glacier shrinkage, a process that not yet been taken into account. To ensure sustainable water management, we need reliable information on present and future water resources and their evolution in relation to human activities, global change, and climate evolution affecting the hydrological and melting regime of the Amu Darya’s main tributaries. It is important to know not only what the supply will be but also what the real needs are, such as actual irrigation requirements. For good planning, verifiable data are essential instead of perceived demand based on unreliable historical data, previous designs, and erroneous information. This project is designed to provide a clear picture of available water resources and to predict the changes likely to occur into the future. This will provide the riparian states with the essential information for effective water resource planning at the basin level. Achieving a more realistic allocation of water and better integrating knowledge about carrying capacity and adaptation of water consumption given environmental water needs is crucial to environmentally sustainable development in the region.

Summary of Recent Activities

During the reporting period April-June 2017 the project team focused on the study of the orography of the Pamir Mountain which includes the zone forming the Transboundary Amu Darya River and influences the formation of meteorological conditions of the Amudarya tributaries, the Pyanj and Vakhsh Rivers. For this reason, meteorological data from the Darvaz meteorological stations, Khorog, Irkht, and the meteorological station on the Fedchenko glacier were used. During the processing of meteorological data for the period 1934-2014, the team established mean annual precipitation in the various regions of the southwestern climatic zone of the Gorno Badakhshan Autonomous Region of the Pamirs. The processing of meteorological data from the meteorological station on the Fedchenko glacier showed that the trend of changes in atmospheric precipitation for the periods 1931-1961 and 1961-1991 is of an increasing nature. The formation of snow cover on the Fedchenko glacier during these periods is also characterized by an increasing trend.

At first glance, based on the above results, it could be concluded that a continuous process of accumulation of snow cover is taking place on the Fedchenko glacier. However, the processing of a continuous series of snow cover data for the period 1931-1991 showed that the change in snow cover height on the Fedchenko glacier is cyclical. It was found that the formation of the snow cover in the Fedchenko glacier corresponds to the winter-spring period.

In the next six months, fieldwork is planned in the basins upstream of the Vakhsh River where the team will sample waters for chemical and isotope analyzes. The team also plans to hold short courses for students of the Meteorology and Climatology Department of Tajik National University and employees from the Hydrometeorology Agency of Republic of Tajikistan which will cover the modern methods and methodology for the monitoring of hydrology characteristics of mountain rivers.


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