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Water resources basin management was recognized as one of the best practices – the interrelation between groundwater and surface water. To improve the ecological management status within the basin, it considers the river basin as a single system
Basin water resources management
The water resources management project is a special reform that has been going on since
2002. It finished and water resources reforming process is going on. As far as I know, the
process has been going on for more than ten years. Nowadays, development is underway to
ensure that water resources management is carried out in a separate basin

If you look at the map of Kyrgyzstan, you see that the country is divided into five large basins.
Basin councils are being established for each of them. Those councils are aimed at defining
the problems of each specific basin, deciding, what measures can be applied to solve these
problems and successfully manage the basin.

What are the watersheds of a basin? It is an area within which all natural waters are collected
and flown into the main river. It can be the sea or the lake, or the ocean and so forth. There
are five main rivers in Kyrgyzstan: Naryn, Chu, Talas, Issyk-Kul lake and the rivers flowing into
it, and Kara-Darya and Syr-Darya in the south.

To put it simply, the whole territory and every water that flows into the river is related to the
basin of a certain river. But we have rivers that are almost unexploited. They are located near
the Chinese border, for instance, Chatyr Koldon river. We don't use this water. Everything that
is not touched by people still flows down, but the human influence is not evident there. And
five basins, affected by people, where they use the water, might be polluted by them.

Basins mean geological and geographical division criteria. For example, we take the water,
it goes further, and when it is flooded somewhere, they put a dam and this dam is on the balance sheet, and the river doesn't belong to anyone. For instance, someone takes away the
gravel below. And extraction of this gravel affects the whole river up to the source. There is
no owner. Anyone, who wants, can take what they want. In fact, they should receive a permit,
a license, but not specifically for taking something from the river, but for working on the site –
and no one regulates the matter of what can or cannot be taken.

Or, for example, if someone, who is upstream, produces something, they throw away all the
production waste. It is not very good for us, but we cannot act on it. For example, if I would
like to get water here in Jalal-Abad province, I can take as much as I want, and people from
Naryn province administration would not be able to stop me, and vice versa. As they say, everyone is their own boss. Everyone pursues his or her own policy within the limits of his or
her competence and duties.
To put it simply, the whole territory and every water that flows into the river is related to the basin of a certain river
Establishing the water administration will legitimise this process – there will be a clear plan
(for example, this year the basin water administration takes this amount of water from this
river). Organisations will not throw away production waste and will build treatment plants.
One «boss» will be in charge of it all, up to the extraction of gravel and so on.

The water administration should be established after the development of the basin plan, so
that it would manage everything. The administration will include not only our water management department, but also the drinking water department, as well as the sewage waste management, so it does not get into the riverbed. But as they say, all this is still in the blueprint stage.

At this stage, we have completed the river basin plans. Firstly, statistical data on water quantity and analysis of its use have been collected. Secondly, the negative impact. Kyrgyzstan is a mountainous country, our water resources are affected by the conditions of the forests or their absence, the conditions of the slopes and so on. All that has been identified and taken into account, while preparing the first version of the basin plans. Currently, the plan for the Naryn Syr-Darya basin is fully completed. The analysis of the most vulnerable rivers and river basin sites has been made in it, and the relevant measures have been developed. We call the site vulnerable, if certain activities are carried out within this area, possibly agricultural ones, that affect the condition of this site, soil or water; for example, if there is a tailing dump.

The public (basin) council has representatives from all sectors of the economy – energy,
hydrogeology, hydrometeorology, environmental protection, drinking water supply, ecologists, ecotechnical inspection, natural resources management, health care, sanitary and epidemiological station, and other specialists. All of the branches above are involved in the water sector and should be aware of events that occur in it to understand what decisions to make.

Water resources basin management was recognized as one of the best practices – the interrelation between groundwater and surface water. To improve the ecological management
status within the basin, it considers the river basin as a single system.
Ecological water flow
Any dam has an impact on the river, because it creates two different biospheres. Microclimate can be different there. The large reservoir can affect the environment. For example, if a dam is blocked, the fish in the upstream and downstream parts are separated. One type of fish may be lost in the upper part, and another type of fish may be lost in the lower part. This type of actions affects it, whether you like it or not. Trout lays caviar in the icy water. It cannot lay it any lower than that. In my opinion, there are fewer river trout now because of this. They sell home-bred trout here. And that is only one example.

Ecological water flow, which connects the upper and lower parts, would help. Ecological
water flow is the necessary amount of water that is needed to ensure the viability of the fauna.
Take Naryn river and Toktogul dam for example. Ecological water flow there is a minimum
amount of water that should be passed to ensure the preservation of ecology, the entire fauna
and the living organisms, so that the fish from the bottom that swims towards the springs could
move freely. It is very difficult to arrange in Toktogul reservoir, because it is hundred meters
deep. But we can build a channel through which the fish could pass in the smaller structures.
Now it will probably be designed in a special way, I don't know. But I can say that the ecological water flow can ensure the preservation of the river fauna, because ecology is the main concern here. Now it is one of the most important factors in any project, because the amount of fish is decreasing, and we should also be aware of the human impact factor.
Groundwater and surface water interrelation
The advantage of basin management, first of all, is that there will be one «boss", who will
regulate everything, manage irrigation water for drinking and industrial needs. For example,
now we report to the Ministry of Agriculture, and «Taza Suu» reports to another ministry.
Those, who are in charge of irrigation and drinking water, are associated. For example,
drinking water is taken from the wells, although it is not visible, the extraction affects the basin,
because the water runoff there is ground. They take groundwater from the ground. If you take
more from the well, one of the springs, which is located nearby, will dry out. For example, we
have rivers that are completely drained after July and do not reach Naryn.

The city of Jalal-Abad is mainly supplied with wells. But there are cities that are fed from open
springs, such as Osh. There, they take it from an open spring, purify it, and then it all goes to
consumers. These wells and drinking water (up to public utilities) in the future should also be
a part of the basin council that is being developed.

Now it works the way it was designed in the Soviet Union – I am responsible just for my field.
There are separate departments for irrigation water and for drinking water, and water councils will unite all of them.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations and all other organizations – productional, industrial – should know how to use water resources. And it is necessary to make it a paid service. There is no need to charge for natural resources, so they say, but a certain payment will be regulated. When it is free of charge – it is not valued. We now have a symbolic price for it, but in the future we will probably have to increase the fee to encourage responsible use. For example, the water canal has installed a meter and now everyone is already more aware of the quantity. And if you just apply a fixed fee, as it used to be, the same would happen – everybody would use as much as they want, drain as much as they want.
Any dam has an impact on the river, because it creates two different biospheres. Microclimate can be different there. The large reservoir can affect the environment
Low water/high-water periods and crops
I don't know, whether it is because of the global warming or because of the dry season, but
there is a shortage of water resources now. You can already feel it in our country. Well, the
shortage does not mean that there is no water at all, it just means that there will be a small
deficit. Agricultural consumers, as far as we are concerned, have been feeling it for a couple
of years already, and there will be another five-six years. And more rational use means that
in the future it will be necessary to control the rational distribution of water for the population
and for irrigation.

You know, from time to time, there are different cycles. We have been taught this way: for 10- 15 years, for example, a high-water period lasts and then it is followed by a low-water period. This was all happening before global warming. Actually, different periods can happen – 15-20 years, 50 years –it depends on the climate and on the type of the river feeding. For example, there are rivers with snow feeding. Rivers that feed on streams, springs and glaciers depend on them – no glaciers, no water. Now glaciers melt heavily and there was little snow, which means that this year will be a dry year. Whether you like it or not, there will be little water in this basin. Sometimes it happens, even if there was a lot of snow and the spring was very rainy. All the snow melts, goes away, the growing season comes and water shortage begins.

The Ministry of Emergency Situations conduct meteorological observations for the current
year, for example. They make measurements and are obliged to warn us, but basically we
send inquiries by ourselves – we ask by phone or write an official letter. But, this forecast is
such as, you know, basically, we are guided by our own (laughs). This year, we were promised a water shortage. So far, you see, there is a lot of water, because it is, anyway, just a
forecast.

You know, there has never been a time when the low-water period immediately turned into a
high-water period. It goes by its own cycle. It should be studied. We have been studying for
five or six years and it is difficult to explain it all in a few words now...
I don't know, whether it is because of the global warming or because of the dry season, but there is a shortage of water resources now. You can already feel it in our country. Well, the shortage does not mean that there is no water at all, it just means that there will be a small deficit
Scheduled use of water
Inside the country we regulate our water supply schedules. We implement water rotation so
that one day it goes to this region, the second day to that region, it is our responsibility. It is
also said in the Koran – do not pollute water, save it, the same was said in the Soviet Union.

What are we doing now? We are gradually moving towards more rational irrigation. For
example, drip irrigation, when less water is used. Also, a more systematic use of water – we
give recommendations on what crops to sow in the dry period, which crop needs less water
and does not need to be irrigated. More water is consumed by wheat, and now the work
has already started (May). Cotton is watered from the beginning of the season to the end,
almost until October-November. All this needs to be controlled. Everything can be adjusted
by putting everything to use.

This does not mean that we refuse to grow rice and cotton, it just can be adjusted in terms of
crops, hectares and sowing areas, but now it is difficult. It was possible to do it before in the
Soviet Union, but now everything is private – there is almost nothing state-owned. There are
state sowing lands, but those are leased out. It turns out to be the same as when a private
citizen owns it.

This is how we are working at the moment – we, the district administration, belong to state
enterprises. There used to be collective farms, and we used to supply them with water. Now
there are no collective farms as such, there are water users associations – a private-public
organization. We do not supply water directly to consumers, but to associations, and they
distribute water to consumers. We have been working on various projects for a long time on
the level of associations, i.e. providing them with consultations on irrigation by international
organizations and by the state.

We give recommendations on what to sow and what to do in dry years. Recommendations
are given at the meetings of the village, seminars are held on drip irrigation and greenhouses. In the case of drip irrigation, a specialist comes, measures everything, shows everything, calculates everything, up to hydromodules, and says: «It needs so much water on this day and so much water on that day. This kind of mineral additives will be useful". In other words, it starts on the village level, village gatherings are held in the Ayil Okmotu, and then district meetings are held, and so on right up to the regional level. Everything is announced through the Ministry of Agriculture, each district has its own units that work, including us, up to legal consultations.

Previously, spreading information was a problem. Now they already know what to sow. People have become more educated. They need to make a profit. Why waste, right? They know for themselves what to sow and what to do. But we still give recommendations. Weather forecast service works, they notify us – next year we have to sow this, for example, it is better not to sow rice, because there will be water shortage. But still, they do not always follow, but our main task is to provide the water supply.
Landscapes
Landscapes? Well, mostly we don't have such picturesque spots on the way. We need to
go there – to the mountains. If you want to shoot Naryn, it's about 70 km towards Bishkek.
The nearest river from Jalal-Abad on the road to Bishkek is Kok-Art, it is in our region. After
Kok-Art there is Kara-Ungur, then Maily-Suu, after Maily-Sai there are small rivers and then
Naryn. Small rivers are feeders of Naryn. If you want to shoot more picturesque places, you
need a bigger river – Naryn. Those are small rivers – 50 cubes, if you understand what 50
cubes are (laughs). They are incomparable with Naryn – they are small.

- We explained as well as we could. We can't tell you everything we know, because it's not
part of our nature. We work harder than we talk.

- That's why people like us come to you and ask to tell our citizens through the stories why
water should be paid for and how it is a part of our ecosystem. Thank you for your time and
your story.

- We try, we work

- Within the limits of our capacity.

- Have you been somewhere else?

- You mean regarding water? We had a meeting in Bishkek regarding water, and for example, in Jumgal we visited village health committees and covered different topics. Of course, we can't talk about everything in depth, but we can come to you and ask you to explain us in very simple words about the specifics of your work (laughs).

- Were we able to explain it to you?

- Some things, yes.

- Well, if something is still unclear, then ask. This time we will be clearer (laughs).
- Can you show us the nearest river?

- So, you are not interested exactly in the Syr-Darya river, are you? We can see Kok-Art just on the way. Let's go
For this conversation we are grateful to Taalaybek Abduvaliev (Head of the Jalal-Abad Basin Water Management Department), Zhainakbek Orozbaev (Chief Engineer of the Jalal-Abad Basin Water Administration), Nurgazy Mamataliev (Institutional development component coordinator of the project implemented by the Department of Water Resources and Land Reclamation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic), Damira Mukanbetovna (Basin Planning Specialist of the project implemented by the Department of Water Resources and Land Reclamation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic), Ekaterina Sakhvaeva (Basin Planning Specialist of the project implemented by the Department of Water Resources and Land Reclamation of the Ministry of Agriculture, Food Industry and Melioration of the Kyrgyz Republic), as well as to all others, who helped create this material.
Water, infrastructure and
climate change
Water is a common property and through its various uses, such as drinking, sanitation and ir-
rigation, water is critical for life. Against the backdrop of climate change and increased water
stress, ensuring the most efficient use of the resource is a must. Countrywide, Switzerland has
focused its support on integrated water resource management encompassing water from the
source to the service provision to a water user both for drinking water and water for irriga-
tion. This implies introduction of basin approach, water information system for all the sources
and water use permitting system. In particular, the Swiss Cooperation worked on increasing
efficiency of irrigation water services and on supporting the 486 irrigation water user as-
sociations. Also, the Swiss cooperation has been supporting the Kyrgyzstani authorities in
rehabilitating and extending urban water supply systems in the main cities of the country, thus
contributing to providing safe drinking water to about 2 million citizens, thus considerably
improving their quality of life.
Switzerland will continue to engage in the policy dialogue at the local and national levels to
support reforms in the water sector and to build capacities of water companies to ensure the
provision of quality services to all citizens.
Regional cooperation in Central Asia is crucial when addressing water resource manage-
ment and to overcoming diverging interests between upstream (Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan) and
downstream countries (Kazakhstan, Uzbekistan). Switzerland makes efforts to promote re-
gional dialogue with a view of creating shared benefits between all Central Asian countries
thus contributing to peaceful coexistence and stability in the region. In the context of the
Swiss-funded project, a transboundary commission has been supported in management of
the water resources in the basin of the river Chu and river Talas which flow from Kyrgyzstan
to Kazakhstan.

Water and infrastructure projects implemented regionally and in Kyrgyzstan:
  • Blue Place Central Asia Programme (Central Asia);
  • Water Accountability in transboundary Chu and Talas river basins (Kyrgyzstan, Kazakh-
    stan);
  • National Water Resources Management Project (Kyrgyzstan);
  • At Bashy Hydropowerplant Rehabilitation Project (Kyrgyzstan);
  • Bishkek Water and Waste Water Rehabilitation Project (Kyrgyzstan);
  • Osh and Jalal-Abad Water Rehabilitation Project (Kyrgyzstan);
  • Naryn Water Rehabilitation Project I (Kyrgyzstan);
  • Karakol Water Supply Project (Kyrgyzstan);
  • Kant Water and Wastewater Project (Kyrgyzstan).
We recommend to listen the audio installation in the headphones