Across large areas, the surface water and groundwater resour-
ces of Turkmenistan are extremely scarce, due to the country’s predominantly desert climate and average annual precipitation of 100-150 mm. The Amu Darya River is the main source of water in the northern part of the country, while the southern regions near the Kopet Dag Mountains are mainly served by the Karakum Canal, which was constructed in the middle of 20th century.
Other water resources are the Murgab and the Tedjen rivers, which run into Turkmenistan from Afghanistan and Iran, and are mainly supplied by runoff from the northern Hindukush Mountains. Smaller rivers, especially those from the Kopet Dag Mountains, run dry during the summer months. Groundwater reserves are modest and at present are little used. Today, many of the traditional
water supply systems known as karez, which tap the groundwater reserves in the mountain foothills, are out of operation. In the large agricultural areas along the Amu Darya, the Karakum Canal, and the rivers Murgab and Tedjen, a dense system of drainage collectors is used to capture important amounts of return water, although it is usually highly saline. Extensive collectors are now in place to derive water to the Turkmen reservoir being created in the north of the country.
In accordance with the Water Code of Turkmenistan, these water resources are supervised by the Ministry of Water Economy in cooperation with the Ministry of Environmental Protection and the Ministry of Communal Services. Some 90% of the water is in- tended for use in irrigation. At the same time, the rivers, irrigation canals and reservoirs in rural areas are the primary sources for municipal and domestic drinking water supplies.
Environmental protection and the improved management of water resources comprise one of the priority areas of the European Union in Central Asia. The project Water Management and Basin Organisations in Central Asia (WMBOCA) is a component of the European Union Regional Environment Programme for Central Asia (EURECA). WMBOCA consists of two interrelated compo- nents:
- Supporting water management and strengthening transboun-
dary river basin administrations in Central Asia
- Capacity building on river basin planning for water management organisations and joint river basin structures
The objective of WMBOCA is to support integrated water resour- ces management (IWRM) at basin level and transboundary river basin management in particular. The project activities focus on the staff of existing water management organisations, as well as newly established joint water management structures in the selected basins and sub-basins, and the policymakers for the water sector in the Central Asian states.
In Turkmenistan, the project is supporting the Ministry of Water Economy in the introduction of a basin planning approach for
the Murgab river basin. Thereby, it aims to improve the use and protection of surface water and groundwater resources in line with IWRM principles.