Central Asia relies heavily on water for agricultural production, with over 80 percent of the region’s water being used for this purpose.
The United Nations Organization to Combat Desertification and Drought has warned that by 2050, drought will affect more than three-quarters of the world’s population. Research conducted by the World Resources Institute and Britain’s Economist Intelligence Unit has identified Uzbekistan as one of 33 countries expected to face water shortages by 2040.
Uzbekistan’s primary water sources are the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers, as well as internal rivers, streams, and underground water. The Aral Sea basin, which encompasses these sources, has an average long-term water flow of 116 billion m3. Of this, 67.4 percent is formed in the Amudarya basin, and 32.6 percent in the Syrdarya basin.
In recent years, the region has experienced the effects of global climate change, resulting in decreased snow and rainfall, reduced water consumption in glaciers and large river basins, and diminished water supply in small rivers and streams. As a result, the per capita water supply has decreased by 53 percent, from 3048 m3 to 1438 m3 over the last 30 years.
Despite these challenges, the government has set an ambitious goal of increasing irrigated arable land to 4.6 million hectares by 2030. However, meeting the irrigation standards for each crop will require 54.4 billion m3 of water, while the estimated available water supply in 2030 is only 47.4 billion m3. This leaves a deficit of 7.0 billion m3, which will be addressed through the introduction of water-saving technologies (2.0 billion m3), construction and reconstruction of irrigation networks (2.2 billion m3), digitalization of water management (0.6 billion m3), and the implementation of additional agrotechnical measures and drought-resistant crops (2.2 billion m3).
To address these challenges, the Government of Uzbekistan has initiated consistent reforms under the leadership of President Shavkat Mirziyoyev. These reforms aim to improve the management and effective use of water resources, as well as modernize water management facilities. Through these efforts, Uzbekistan is working towards a sustainable and secure water future for its citizens and the region.
The implementation of water-saving technologies in the agricultural sector is a top priority for Uzbekistan. Drawing inspiration from the best practices of foreign countries such as the USA, China, Turkey, and Australia, the country has made significant strides in this area. In fact, the introduction of water-saving technologies in the country has increased from 28 thousand hectares in 2018 to an impressive 1 million hectares today, representing 27 percent of the total irrigated area.
Uzbekistan’s commitment to water conservation is reflected in its impressive rankings. The country is currently ranked first in Central Asia, second among CIS countries, fourth among Asian countries, and thirteenth in the world in terms of the area where water-saving technologies have been introduced. The government’s goal is to introduce these technologies on 2 million hectares or 54 percent of the total irrigated land in the country by 2025.
The government is taking systematic measures to encourage and financially support the efficient use of existing water resources in Uzbekistan. Starting in 2019, subsidies for the introduction of water-saving technologies and other privileges and preferences were introduced. Agricultural enterprises that have introduced water-saving technologies have received a total of 1 trillion 465 billion Uzbek soums (133 million US dollars) in subsidies between 2019 and 2022.
According to Article 367 of the Tax Code of the Republic of Uzbekistan, land areas that have implemented drip irrigation systems are exempt from land tax for a period of five years. Additionally, a 30 percent discount on water tax is available when a water meter is installed in areas that have adopted water-saving technologies.
It is worth noting that until 2019, only three enterprises were operating in the country for the local production of water-saving irrigation technology equipment and components. However, today, the number of such enterprises has increased to 50. These technologies have proven to be highly effective in reducing water consumption by 40-50%, mineral fertilizers by 25-30%, fuel-lubricants by 30-35%, and labor costs by 25%. Furthermore, they have also increased productivity, including in cotton growing, by 30%.
It is evident that Uzbekistan is committed to water conservation and its efficient use at the highest level of government. The results achieved in a short period of time are certainly noteworthy.