Kazakhstan - National Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plan

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Key issues: IWRM Planning | National Water and Sanitation Planning | Decentralization of Water Decision Making

Experience and Case Studies:

Other articles:

Performance and Capacity of River Basin Organizations | River Basin Organizations | River basin councils | IWRM - Sustainable Water Governance on the National Level

Living with less

Kazakhstan must live with the water supplies it currently has and be prepared for less. No matter what actions can be taken in international agreements, they are not very likely to result in an increase in cross-border water flows to Kazakhstan.

Water supplies are insufficient to meet the growing demand from the agricultural sector, which consumes 78 percent of total supply in the country. To compound the problem, a significant amount of the country's water resources is lost through inefficient water use, leakage through old infrastructure - which accounts for 30 percent of losses - and through pollution. These problems for the most part do not stem from supply shortages but from poor water management.

Currently in Kazakhstan water resources management is best described as fragmented, underfunded and poorly governed. A decade of budget and staffing cuts has had a dramatic effect on the ability of the authorities to manage water. This is immediately apparent simply by looking at the low number of people involved in water management and in the extremely low budgets the water management organizations are allocated by the central government.

In short, it is evident that the existing approach to water resources management in Kazakhstan is not working.

The Government of Kazakhstan has been dealing with the consequences of environmental mismanagement. It has embarked on a water resources management project aimed at strengthening the water management organizations within the country and by instituting the practice of Integrated Water Resource Management (IWRM). The government has embarked on the project in order to balance the supply and the demand for water in the country to make sure that future development needs (economic, social, environmental) be addressed by a national water management programme.

The government, represented by the Committee for Water Resources, with support from UNDP and the Global Water Partnership, drafted the IWRM plan that proposed an integrated approach to water management, in which the river basin would be managed holistically, with the participation of water user stakeholders and ensuring environmental sustainability. It is the first document in the country-since independence-that proposes significant reforms in the water sector. The plan is in the final draft form and will be discussed at a ministerial meeting in December 2006. This is a timely development given the pressing management challenges facing the water sector in Kazakhstan.


Focus Areas

Geographic Scope



Committee for Water Resources (CWR) assumes responsibility for the National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan and for the Strategy for the Achievement of the MDG for WSS. The CWR will work with the Government and its Ministries to develop suitable amendments to policies and legislation to ensure the two documents are approved, adopted and implemented, which includes proper financing and committed organization among the various government organizations involved.

The Government of Norway, given its outstanding record in providing assistance to poverty reduction and integrated water management programmes and its commitment to accelerating progress on the 2005 water management goal as a necessary precondition to achievement of the MDGs—is providing funding to this ongoing project.

Global Water Partnership maintains links with the regional level, assists consolidation of multi-stakeholder groups, provides technical input on the principles of IWRM, arranges capacity building work sessions and workshops within IWRM planning for professionals and awareness workshops at the political level.

United Nations Development Programme supports the Government of Kazakhstan in the coordination of its efforts in achieving MDGs and instituting IWRM principles into national plans and policies. UNDP facilitates the implementation of the project and the creation of partnerships among stakeholders. UNDP delivers workshops, training programs and seminars with the relevant information to the representatives of CWR and and other key project stakeholders during all stages of the project’s activities.

Water Governance Facility (WGF)supports a project component on increased stakeholders dialogue in River Basin Councils that have been and are being created in eight river basins of Kazakhstan.

Financing Overview
Partner Co-financing (USD)
Norway 1,085,000
Committee for Water Resources (CWR) (in-kind) 30,000
UNDP (Kaz) 100,000
WGF / Stockholm International Water Institute (SIWI) 150,000
DFID 86,679
Total 1,450,000



Background and Significance

Aksy River
Aksy River

Kazakhstan must live with the water supplies it currently has and be prepared for less. No matter what actions may be taken in international agreements they are very unlikely to result in an increase in cross border flows. Rather, international agreements on the transboundary rivers are about water security; allowing confidence in water resources to support planning for investments and operations. Additionally, most studies of climate change suggest a decline in available water over the coming decades due to global warming and the resultant shrinking of the glaciers that feed the main rivers of the region.

At the same time Kazakhstan wastes a significant proportion of its water resources through both inefficient use of water and through pollution.

Overuse of irrigation water wastes water, but also results in very low yields from its crops, a situation that Kazakhstan already experiences. Overuse of water reduces per hectare annual yields directly because the plants are stressed by so much water. It also reduces arable land because of the salinization of soil cause by the overuse of water combined with ineffective drainage. Overuse of water for agriculture also pollutes the water in rivers and other water bodies, including aquifers, by increasing salinity. Additional pollution is cause by insufficient treatment of municipal wastewater prior to disposal, unmanaged industrial waste dumping and unregulated solid waste disposal.

The above shows that the problem in Kazakhstan is not a resources problem but a management problem. And it is a problem which can be solved through applying the principles of IWRM.

It is well accepted that the management of the water resources of Kazakhstan is at a very low point. A decade of budget and staffing cuts has had a dramatic effect on the ability of the authorities manage water at all. This is immediately apparent simply by looking at the low number of people involved in water management and in the extremely low budgets the water management organisations are allocated by central government.

Currently in Kazakhstan water resources management is best described as being fragmented, underfunded and poorly governed. IWRM offers the best method of turning these around to being integrated, properly funded and well governed.

In short, it is evident that the existing approach to water resources management in Kazakhstan is not working. An integrated approach, in which the river basin is managed holistically, with the participation of water user stakeholdersand ensuring environmental sustainability, would resolve many of the above problems.

It is important to note that there is a new Water Code in Kazakhstan, passed in July 2003. The Water Code continues to undergo amendment and evolution into a stronger piece of legislation, but it does contain many elements reflecting the principles of IWRM. To date, however, very little has been done to implement the Water Code and now there is a growing list of conflicts with other, some newer, laws. However, the implementation of the National IWRM and WE Plan can be practically seen as implementing the Water Code.

Goal and Objectives

This is a water resources management project aimed at strengthening the water management organizations of Kazakhstan through instituting the practice of Integrated Water Management (IWRM). This is done through assisting the Committee for Water Resources to prepare the first National IWRM and Efficiency Plan (See: The Working Paper on the National Plan) and eight Basin IWRM Plans for River Basin Organizations, as well as establishing Basin Councils representing the water user stakeholders. The project also works toward achieving the Millennium Development Goals for Water through developing the Strategy for Achieving the MDGs for Water Supply and Sanitation

The Experience: Challenges and Solutions


Main steps in the actual preparation of the Plan are:

(i) a description of the current situation in water resources management, in the efficiency of water use and how decisions are made and actions taken

(ii) a vision of where the country wants to be in the future in terms of its water resources: the quality of the resource, efficiency of use, the decision making process, how actions will be taken to solve problems, etc.

(iii) a ‘map’ outlining how to move from here and now to where Kazakhstan wants to be in the future, with milestones, time frames, indicators of change, etc. – in other words, a transition strategy

Key Steps and Dates in the National and River Basin IWRM and Water Efficiency Plans:


- an Inter-Ministerial Working Group to ensure coordination of activities and involvement of key government bodies

- working papers on IWRM that present aspects of IWRM specific to Kazakhstan and highlights strengths and weaknesses, and provoke discussions with relevant ministries/agencies in the government and other stakeholders that maybe or will be involved in the development and subsequent implementation of the IWRM Plan

- a series of stakeholder forums with experts, government and the public to present and obtain feedback on working papers that will constitute the draft Plan

- a concept of the National IWRM Plan to present to all stakeholders a proposed structure of the IWRM Plan and its key components. The Kazakhstan National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan Concept Note has been prepared under supervision of an international expert with similar IWRM planning experience in other countries

- First draft of the National IWRM Plan with a detailed description of its elements

- outcomes of international projects pertaining to water resources of Kazakhstan in the view of their assessment, analysis and development collected and reviewed. During further work on preparation of the IWRM Plan, recommendations from these projects have been taken into account.

- The data and information of legal nature pertaining to preparation of IWRM Plan have been collected. Upcoming Environmental Code and Law on Local Self-Governance are being considered when working on the IWRM Plan as both laws have a serious impact on implementation of the IWRM action plan.

- second draft of the IWRM Plan discussed at the Inter-Ministerial Group meeting, at a stakeholder meeting, at meetings with government representatives and other stakeholders and by correspondence. Comments collected, reviewed and analysed.

- completion of preparation of the National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan

– presentation of the National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan to the Government of Kazakhstan for approval and adoption


The project is being implemented by the Water Resources Committee of the Ministry of Agriculture of the Republic of Kazakhstan

On the IWRM component: 29 government ministries and agencies

Government: Ministry of Emergency Situations; Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning; Ministry of Healthcare; Ministry of Environmental Protection; Ministry of Energy and Mineral Resources; Committee of Forestry and Hunting, Ministry of Agriculture; Committee of Fishery, Ministry of Agriculture; Department of Land Cultivation, Ministry of Agriculture; Committee on Rural Area Development, Ministry of Agriculture; Kazakhstan - River Basin Councils|River Basin Organizations

Key water users like agriculture and industry,local government (province level), relevant technical institutions, NGOs, water experts, academicians

On the River Basin Council component: 8 River Basin Organizations (Water Resources Committee’s affiliates in 8 river basins of Kazakhstan), local government (province and rayon levels), local industries, municipalities, province affiliates of government ministries and agencies, farmer/water user associations(in southern regions of Kazakhstan), where relevant, local NGOs, local academic institutions

On the MDGs for WSS Component: Sanitary and Epidemiological Control Committee under the Ministry of Health, province and rayon level government authorities, Committee for Geology and Mineral Resources (ground water), Ministry of Economy and Budget Planning, water related infrastructure project institutes

UNDP is assisting the Government in implementing the project, in bringing international expertise, in creating a neutral platform for involvement of various stakeholders at the national, regional and district levels.

Future generations of Kazakshtan are direct beneficiaries of the project's results


Since the project's objective is to develop a National IWRM plan, it is being implemented nationally and it covers eight river basins of Kazakhstan.


This is a still ongoing project that will end in April 2007. At this moment, the project has produced the final draft of the IWRM Plan that will be discussed at an Inter-Ministerial meeting in October and be submitted for the government's approval and adoption at the end of 2006.

The project's duration is three years, which is appropriate, to achieve targets set at the beginining

Results and Impact

The project started in June 2004 and much of the first nine months were taken up in stakeholder consultations and developing the approach to IWRM in general and the National Plan in particular (See: The Working Paper on the National Plan). This period culminated in the completion of the Concept Note for the National IWRM and WE Plan in March 2005. The Concept Note was widely distributed among many stakeholders. Some comments were returned and these have been considered in the preparation of this Draft National IWRM and WE Plan. During 2006 the Second Draft National IWRM and WE Plan was prepared, comments from 42 stakeholders (key ministries and agencies, local authorities, regional and international partners) were received and considered in finalizing the Final Draft IWRM and WE Plan. The Final Draft will be discussed during the next Interministerial Working Group Meeting to be held in mid-October 2006.

Following the completion of the National Plan the Project will continue to support and assist the CWR in other, related project objectives including the preparation of River Basin IWRM and WE Plans for the eight river basins of Kazakhstan. These are a necessary follow-on from the National Plan as they will define a programme of actions required at the river basin level. The first principle of IWRM is that the river basin is the correct unit for water resources management. River Basin Councils (RBCs) are also being established in all eight river basins with the support of the project. Support will continue for the duration of the project which ends in July 2007.

Technical and sociological analysis were completed in 2005, which allowed to obtain reliable and better-defined data on access to drinking water. The surveys were carried out in over 281 urban and 7,000 rural settlements in Kazakhstan. These surveys helped define the actual access to water supply and sanitation by an urban/rural divide, hydrographic basins and oblasts of Kazakhstan. As a follow up, the project team prepared a combined report on access to drinking water and water supply services throught Kazakhstan. The report was released in January 2006 during the Interministerial Working Group Meeting and was widely disseminated.

Lessons for Replication

Main Results

There is a commitment of part of the Government to develop and subsequently implement the IWRM plan (signed Johannesburg declaration signed by the President of Kazakhstan). Due to timely interventions of the Project the final draft of the IWRM plan has been developed and will be discussed at the extensive inter-ministerial meeting (29 ministries) in late November 2006.

At the national level
at the beginning there was a low interest of the management of the Water Resources Committee to the development of IWRM plan—considered it to be a duplication of the committee’s existing work on comprehensive schemes, and a limited understanding of what IWRM plan is and how it can be applied in Kazakhstan.
  • Action: personal meetings with key people in the Committee, trainings organized by the project.
At the basin level
at the beginning negative attitude to creating a river basin council—an open platform for discussion and decision-making at a basin level. The first council was hard to push forward (though establishment of river basin councils is stipulated in the new Water Code). However, the project managed to overcome that bottleneck and showed to the Kazakhstan - River Basin Councils staff how the mechanism works.

Testimonies and Stakeholder Perceptions

Outlook (Conclusions and Next Steps)

The project will assist RBOs with river basin IWRM plans as a second step in instituting IWRM in the country. The remaining river basin councils in the Ural-Caspian basin (the largest in Kazakhstan) will be established in 2007. The strategy for achieving MDGs for water supply and sanitation will be developed by end of 2006.

The implementation of the IWRM plan is expected to be largely funded by the Government—from national and local budgets—once the Plan is endorsed. It is envisaged that some activities in the Plan will be implemented with donor’s help.

Project Initiative

National Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plan

Timeframe & Status

June 2004 - July 2007


See also

Kazakhstan - Working Paper on the National Integrated Water Resources Management and Water Efficiency Plan

National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan for Kazakhstan

Water Knowledge Fair 2006

Kazakhstan National IWRM and Water Efficiency Plan Concept Note

External Resources

The UNDP Kazakshtan website on IWRM


 Kazakhstan IWRM.doc  Doklad stokgolm 2006 en.zip  Brief note on 2nd Intergovernmental Ministerial Workign Group.pdf  First Draft of National IWRM&Water Efficiency Plan.pdf  Working Paper National Plan for IWRM&Water Efficiency Kazakhstan.pdf

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