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Kyrgyzstan is part of:
Asia & Pacific · Central Asia · Europe & CIS ·
Water Basins of Kyrgyzstan:
Aral Sea · Chu-Talas · Ferghana Valley · Isfara · Tarim · Vahksh ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Bishkek
Neighbouring Countries China, Kazakhstan, Tajikistan, Uzbekistan
Total Area 198,500 km2
  - Water 7,200 km2 (3.63%) / 363 m2/ha
  - Land 191,300 km2
Coastline 0 km
Population 5,263,794 (26 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.694 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA 30.3 (1995)
Nominal GDPB $5,050 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $2,200
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 13,066 km2 (6.83%)
     - Arable 12,530 km2 (6.55%)
     - Permanent Crops 536 km2 (0.28%)
     - Irrigated 10,720 km2
  - Non cultivated 341 km2 (93.17%)
Average Annual RainfallD 533 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 46.5 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 10.08 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 94%
  - For Domestic Use 3%
  - For Industrial Use 3%
  - Per Capita 2,036 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 77%
     - Urban population 98%
     - Rural population 66%
  - Improved Sanitation 59%
     - Urban population 75%
     - Rural population 51%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

> Articles | Projects & Case studies | Publications & Web resources | Who is who | Maps
> Sector Assessment | Sector Coordination | Donor Profile

Latest 4 maps for / including Kyrgyzstan (more..):



Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Agriculture is the leading sector of the Kyrgyz economy. As noted, irrigation is critical for crop production. About 1.1 million hectares have been developed for irrigation, i.e., more than 80 percent of the arable land in the country. Since the dissolution of the former Soviet Union, lack of funding for maintenance has resulted in the deterioration of the irrigation dams (bringing with it related safety problems) and reduced capacity of the primary and secondary irrigation systems. Irrigation infrastructure within the boundaries of the former farms has been affected by lack of maintenance as well. Many pumping stations have slowed or stopped operations. In-field water application is inadequate due to lack of equipment and skills. The clogging of drainage systems is leading to increased water logging and soil salinization.

Only about one third of the country's 4.6 million inhabitants has piped water to their homes. Another third receives water from stand posts or water tankers, and the remaining third has no organized water service. About half of the estimated 1,750 villages have no functioning water system. In the southern Oblasts of Osh and Jalalabad, only about 25 percent of the villages have operable water systems. Because of the poor state of repair of facilities, lack of maintenance and insufficient resources available for operations, the reliability and safety of the service is becoming an ever more important concern and source of discontent for the population. Service interruptions have become the norm, particularly in the summer months.

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Kyrgyzstan is well endowed with water resources, most of which originate from melting snow and glaciers. Precipitation varies greatly, ranging from 130 to 680 millimetres per year, most in the basin of the Syr Darya and a small share in the basin of the Amu Darya. By international agreement, 25 percent can be retained, of which about 90 percent is used for agricultural purposes. There are six main river basin groups in the country. No rivers flow into Kyrgyzstan. Because half or more of the country's precipitation falls outside the growing season, growing-season precipitation is inadequate for crop production, and so irrigation is undertaken widely.

Kyrgyzstan has considerable reserves of water resources. Annual average volume water of total water resources makes up 2,458 km3 including 50 of surface river runoff, 13 km3 of potential reserves of ground water, 1,745 km3 of lake water, *650 km3 of glaciers.

The territory of the Republic except for its highlands is located in a zone of insufficient moistening, where agriculture mainly depends on artificial irrigation. Therefore irrigation is a basic direction of use of water resources. For this purpose from river basins Chu-Talas, lake Issyk-Kul a lot of canals were taken out. Most of the mountain rivers are taken out in summer for irrigation at exit from zone of formation and do not reach main rivers. Water storages serve for purposes of more complete utilization of the rivers runoff. They are: Toktogul (volume 19.5 km3) on the Naryn river, Orto-Tokoi (volume 470.0 mln m3) on the Chu river, Kirov (550 mln m3) on the Talas river and series of small water pools, having local significance. Total amount of water storages in the Republic is 15 with useful capacity more than 10.0 mln m3, from which 3 are of energy use, 2 – of energy and irrigation use and 10 – of irrigation use.

Kyrgyz glaciers are one of the main sources of formation of the rivers’ flow, therefore all the rivers refer to glacial-snow or snow-glacial types of feeding with a mean annual flow of about 50 billion m3.

In total 27826 small and large rivers are formed on territory of the Kyrgyz Republic, which are in overwhelming majority the trans-boundary ones. Only the rivers of a basin of Yssyk-Kul lake refer to the internal (local) rivers.

The main source of drinking water supply is underground waters. Besides drinking water supply the underground waters are used for the industrial needs and partially for land irrigation.

Under the Soviet Union, the flow of water resources between upstream water-rich and downstream cotton-producing countries was coordinated by Soviet planners. After the fall of the Soviet Union, coordination became the responsibility of the republics’ respective governments. Each country has competing demands for water and is reliant on the others for additional resources, such as oil and natural gas. The tension over resources has led to military buildups and verbal threats. However, as water scarcity increases and Kyrgyzstan seeks to capitalize on hydropower, water disputes could escalate if downstream countries are unable to meet their water needs.

Within the country, water disputes are particularly pervasive in the Ferghana Valley. Existing water scarcity is exacerbated by the region’s high population density. In 1989, disputes between Tajik and Kyrgyz groups over water allocation led to riots in which several people were killed or injured. In 1999, Tajik and Kyrgyz groups were again in violent conflict over the allocation of water.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

Kyrgyzstan’s 2005 Water Code governs the rights, obligations, and management of Kyrgyzstan’s water resources. The Water Code provides that water resources – including land occupied by water bodies – are the exclusive and inalienable property of the state, and every person has the right to use water within the national borders in accordance with the Code’s provisions. The Code establishes seven principles of water management: (1) stakeholder participation is key to planning and decision-making processes; (2) decision-making should provide for the sustainability of water resources; (3) planning should take into account the economic value of water resources; (4) a person who pollutes water resources should pay for the injury caused; (5) absence of full scientific information should not be used to postpone effective action where there are risks of serious harm to water resources, the environment or human life; (6) the rights of water-users should be guaranteed; and (7) information on the condition and use of water resources should be accessible to the public. The Water Code also outlines the water resources governance system; calls for the development of water strategy and plans; requires regulation of uses of surface and underground water; identifies the need for provisions to govern emergencies and dam safety; calls for the establishment of a State Water Inspectorate; and requires recognition of obligations of international law.

The Water Code outlines the rights and obligations of water users and standards for the management of water resources. Surface and groundwater water can be used without Water Use Permission for: drinking and domestic purposes, watering livestock and household plots, and firefighting. Water Use Permission, which is issued by the Water Department, is required for industrial and commercial water uses; use of sewage and wastewater for irrigation; use of impounded or stored water for power generation, fishing, fish-farming or other economic activities; any diversion, restriction or alteration of the flow of water within a water body; alteration of the bed, banks or characteristics of a water body; or extraction of gravel and other materials from water bodies. Water Use Permissions are granted for up to 15 years, and a Special Water Use Permission can be granted for a 50-year period where the applicant is making a substantial, long-term investment in a dam, a drinking-water delivery system or an irrigation system.

The Water Code provides for temporary and permanent suspension of water-use rights. Temporary suspension is applicable for certain forms of non-compliance, and natural disasters or emergencies. Permanent cancelation of a permit applies when it is necessary to reallocate water rights in the public interest, for non-compliance with the Code, lack of use, or liquidation or death of the holder of the right.

In 1994, the Ministry of Agriculture and Water delegated ownership and responsibility for on-farm irrigation infrastructure to local councils. The Law on Unions (Associations) of Water Users (2002) authorizes establishment of water users’ associations (WUAs) to operate and maintain irrigation systems in rural areas.

The Agreement on Cooperation in Interstate Sources’ Water Resources Use and Protection Common Management governs distribution of water among the five Aral Sea Basin countries. The Law on Interstate Use of Water Bodies, Water Resources and Water Structures of the Kyrgyz Republic (2001) defines the principles and regulations of interstate use of water bodies, water resources and water structures whose main purpose is to manage and regulate the principles of water supply by Kyrgyzstan to interested countries on reasonable and mutually beneficial grounds, taking into account market relations.

Interstate water relations are covered by regional agreements on the status of organizations of the IFAS - International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, and by a Kyrgyz-Kazakh interstate agreement on the joint use of water resources and water facilities of the Chu and Talas river basins. Although interstate coordination of water use by Kyrgyzstan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan is of great importance, a mutually agreed strategy does not yet exist.

Instutional Framework

The Government of Kyrgzstan, through its Parliament and offices of the President and Prime Minister, is responsible for developing, approving and amending water legislation; ratifying international agreements; approving annual subsidies for irrigation and drainage; and setting rates for water use. The GOK approves the boundaries of the principal water basins; establishes the Water Council; approves Basin Council regulations; designates specially authorized state bodies to implement the Water Code; establishes a water-resource monitoring system; develops and implements the state water-economy program; and approves Special Water Use Permissions.

The National Water Council in composed of heads of ministries, agencies, and other state bodies responsible for water resource management. The Council coordinates the activities of ministries, administrative agencies and other state bodies concerning the management of water resources; prepares the National Water Strategy for the approval of the GOK; prepares draft laws for presentation to the GOK; supervises the State Water Committee; and develops regulations and instructions for the implementation of the Water Code. Basin-level councils are made up of representatives of the Basin Water Administration, territorial bodies of the State Environmental Protection Body, local state administration bodies, NGOs, water users, and WUAs. Basin councils develop draft basin plans, coordinate activities in the water sector within the basin and approve the composition of the Local Irrigation and Drainage Committees.

The State Committee on Water Management serves as the secretariat for the National Water Council, participates in Basin Councils and undertakes tasks such as monitoring and planning, regulating the use of underground water and taking action to protect water quality. In the field of irrigation, drainage and other water-economy activity, the State Water Committee is responsible for the operation, maintenance, repair and rehabilitation of irrigation and drainage systems; the supply of water of fixed quality in accordance with contracts; the collection of fees from the water users in accordance with contracts for water supply; the preparation of plans of operation and maintenance of each irrigation and drainage system for presentation to the corresponding irrigation commission; and planting of forestry protection plantations along canals, and around state-owned reservoirs and other water storage and delivery structures. The territorial branches of the State Water Committee are the Basin Water Administrations.

The Department of Water Management within the State Water Committee is responsible for implementation of water-resources policy. The Department consists of three main governing bodies: the Department of Water Resources (DWR); the Irrigation and Systems Maintenance Department; and the Department of Economics, Finance and Registration. The DWR is responsible for operating and maintaining the nationwide, off-farm irrigation network and delivering irrigation water to farmers. The DWR is responsible for promoting institutional development of WUAs. The DWR is located in Bishkek, but has seven oblast offices and 43 raion offices.

Irrigation and Drainage Commissions are established at national, basin and local levels and are tasked with: reviewing the performance of relevant irrigation and drainage systems during the previous irrigation season and making recommendations regarding operation and maintenance in the following irrigation season; supervising the implementation of any recommendations made and the preparations for the forthcoming irrigation season; and serving as a forum for information exchange and coordination among irrigation-water users concerning irrigation.

Water user Associations are community-based organizations created to manage water resources for irrigation and irrigation infrastructure at the local level. Kyrgyzstan currently has 450 WUAs, 439 of which are formerly registered and about 90 of which are considered fully mature, having reached the seventh stage of institutional development. The WUAs have roughly 166,000 members and have authority over an area of about 710,000 hectares. Almost all WUAs have offices and functioning management systems, and observers report that, in general, the WUAs are allocating and distributing irrigation water consistent with equitable principles, collecting irrigation service fees and maintaining records. Water Support Units have been integrated into the DWR, creating a link between the WUAs and the DWR. Recent reductions in conflicts over water have been attributed to the establishment of WUAs. One of the greatest challenges facing the WUA system is financial sustainability. Most of the financial and technical support for the development of the WUAs and Water Support Units has been provided by donors. The fees collected by WUAs do not cover the costs of operation, and the GOK budget does not include sufficient support for the WUAs and Water Support Units. The World Bank’s Second On-Farm Irrigation Project, which runs through 2013, is one of several projects addressing the financial structure of the WUA system.

Government Reforms and Interventions

Kyrgyzstan faces three main issues related to water access, use and management: (1) trans-boundary water conflict; (2) water pollution and water quality; and (3) inefficient and poorly maintained irrigation infrastructure. The establishment of WUAs has been a significant step in the structural and institutional reform of irrigation systems. Some ambiguity was created by different jurisdictional standards (basin versus administrative boundaries), and the responsibilities of the WUAs and the DWR for the operation and maintenance of irrigation systems were not clearly defined. However, donor-funded projects focused on the creation and capacity-building of WUAs have helped clarify jurisdictional boundaries and roles.

Tariffs for irrigation water currently do not cover expenses. Between 2007 and 2010, the government introduced staggered rises in tariffs to a level covering operating costs. The WUAs will increase payment collection-levels from their current 78% to a minimum of 95% in 2010. Between 2010 and 2020, a full cost-recovery of the irrigation system should be achieved on a stage-by-stage basis. The GOK, with assistance from Russia, has been pursuing the development of the US $1.7 billion Kambar-Ata 1 hydropower facility. The Government of Uzbekistan opposes development of the facility. The project stalled in March 2010 when Russia halted funding and insisted on an international study to examine potential environmental impacts.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

The Kyrgyz Republic is endowed with sufficient quantities of water of excellent quality for domestic and industrial use for the foreseeable future. Due to commitments towards downstream countries, water availability is likely to become a constraint on expanding irrigation, extending land reclamation, and improving productivity of irrigated areas, unless there are significant improvements in efficiency, and a major effort made to increase water conservation.

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Donor Involvement

USAID has been present in the country since 1992 and has developed several initiatives related to water-resource management. In 2001, USAID launched the US $3 million Peaceful Communities Initiative to open lines of communication between cross-border communities in the area. In an effort to address specific sources of conflict, the initiative rebuilt the water distribution system in Jar-Kyshtak, a village of 2400 people bordering Uzbekistan in southern Kyrgyzstan. Current USAID initiatives also include programs to enhance agricultural productivity through improvements in agricultural practices, better management of the irrigation networks and access to inputs. USAID has also supported the development of trans-boundary basin planning tools for the Syr Darya River to facilitate decisions on the allocation and distribution of water and energy in the region and to facilitate transboundary water discussions between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. The Land Reform Project, of which water was one component, funded numerous stakeholders’ meetings and input sessions relating to the drafting of the 2005 Water Code. USAID funded 10 separate white papers addressing a variety of issues raised by the new legislation and helped facilitate discussion and consensus. The Water Code replaced the very short list of water rights available under prior legislation with predictable, long-term water rights and provides incentivizes for water conservation. As the code progressed through draft phases, the project also educated citizens with a published bulletin.

The World Bank’s 6-year (2006–2011) US $19 million Water Management Improvement Project was designed to: (1) rehabilitate and modernize irrigation infrastructure to secure water supply to around 85,000 hectares, serving 40,000 families; (2) achieve sustainable and efficient water resources management through implementation of the Water Code, support to the DWR and support to WUAs; and (3) organize the formation and development of WUA Federations and the transfer of minor irrigation schemes to WUAs, thereby alleviating some of the pressures on the DWR to operate and maintain these systems. Under the first component (as of early 2010), out of an estimated 18 schemes, 16 schemes have been contracted, and the project expects to complete six subprojects by the end of 2010. Most of the technical advisory packages on water governance under the second and third components have been completed. However, due to a planned restructuring of the DWR and changes in the government, implementation of the recommendations for improved governance are unlikely to begin until after elections are scheduled for October 2010.

The World Bank is also funding the US $15 million Village Investment Project II (2006–2011). As of July 2010, the project had provided about half a million people in project areas with improved access to water resources and constructed 368 new water points. The second Rural Water Supply and Sanitation Project (US $10 million, 2009–2013) was designed to improve rural access to drinking water and sanitation services but has been hindered by delays in the GOK’s adoption of more cost-effective and sustainable rural water supply standards and the unanticipated need to revisit rehabilitation and capacity-building systems installed by the first project. Project implementers anticipate that the project will be delayed a year and undergo restructuring.

The World Bank’s US $20.5 million (2007–2013) Second On-Farm Irrigation Project, implemented by the Department of Water Resources, aims to improve irrigation-service delivery through further development of about 500 WUAs and rehabilitation and modernization of irrigation and drainage infrastructure country-wide. The project plans to deliver: components for WUA strengthening; rehabilitation and modernization of irrigation and drainage systems on about 51,000 hectares managed by an estimated 29 WUAs; and project management support for the Department of Water Resources. As of July 2010, 26 WUAs commanding around 62,000 hectares have been selected for rehabilitation, and five projects have already been completed. The slight drop off in the performance of WUAs is attributed to lack of government funding for WUA Support Units (SUs), which were integrated in the Department of Water Resources. Over the course of 2010, the project plans to work more actively with the GOK resolving this issue to ensure that adequate resources are dedicated to the proper functioning of the SUs.


Recently updated articles on Kyrgyzstan
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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Kyrgyzstan

(this is a list of the 15 most recently updated entries. To see all projects click here)

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Case studies in or about Kyrgyzstan

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See the complete list of WaterWiki documented projects in Kyrgyzstan


5 most recently updated publications on Kyrgyzstan
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  3. Kyrgyzstan Action Program to 2010 ‎(3,786 views) . . Katy.norman
  4. Central Asia Regional Environmental Action Plan for Water Pollution ‎(5,085 views) . . Katy.norman
  5. Politics of Water in Post-Soviet Central Asia ‎(3,652 views) . . Katy.norman

5 most popular publications on Kyrgyzstan
  1. Water Conflict and Cooperation/Aral Sea Basin ‎(27,033 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Lessons on Cooperation Building to Manage Water Conflicts in the Aral Sea Basin ‎(7,282 views) . . Katy.norman
  3. Central Asia Regional Environmental Action Plan for Water Pollution ‎(5,085 views) . . Katy.norman
  4. Kyrgyzstan Country Profile for Johannesburg Summit 2002 ‎(3,885 views) . . Katy.norman
  5. Kyrgyzstan Action Program to 2010 ‎(3,786 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Kyrgyzstan

Who is Who

People working in Kyrgyzstan
  1. Bo Libert ‎(5,998 views)
  2. Siegfried Leffler ‎(5,231 views)
  3. Vadim Sokolov ‎(4,402 views)
  4. Christine.roth ‎(6,177 views)
  5. Christina.carlson ‎(4,933 views)
  6. Magdalena Banasiak ‎(4,781 views)
  7. Kojhi Iwakami ‎(3,683 views)
  8. Craig Steffensen ‎(4,280 views)
  9. Kanat.Sultanaliev ‎(2,960 views)
  10. Zharas.takenov ‎(1,487 views)

See the complete list of Waterwiki users working in Kyrgyzstan

Organizations working in Kyrgyzstan
  1. ICWC ‎(5,587 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Commission on the Use of Water Management Facilities of Intergovernmental Status on the Rivers Chu and Talas ‎(2,479 views) . . WikiBot
  3. CAREC - Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation ‎(8,412 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Kyrgyzstan


See also

External Resources

WB-Water Management Improvement Project in Kazakhstan

Worldbank Kyrgyzstan fact sheet

Kyrgyzstan information on the portal of UNEP/GRID-Arendal

FAO Kyrgyzstan country page

Inauguration of the Chu-Talas Rivers Commission

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