Knowledge Base

Basin water organizations

The need for integrated management and the protection of water resources at watershed level had been proven long before the countries of the region gained independence. Although the centralized water allocation system run by the former USSR Ministry of Land Reclamation and Water Management (USSR Minvodkhoz) was based on regular consultations with the five republics, the 1974-1975 water crises, and especially the one in 1982, showed that environmentally feasible regulation of water supply could be achieved only through concerted action across the region. It was, therefore, suggested to set up basin organizations that would manage resources in accordance with regulations and schedules agreed by the republics and approved by the.USSR MInvodkhoz/ The structure of the basin water management organizations (BWO) was approved in 1986, resulting in the establishment of two such entities: Amudarya BWO with headquarters in Urgench, and Syrdarya BWO in Tashkent. According to government decree No 1110, basin organizations were responsible for all canal intake facilities on rivers and main tributaries with an intake capacity of more than 10 m3/sec.

The BWOs received public financing through the USSR Minvodkhoz from the central budget. Twice a year, based on forecasts by the republics’ hydrometeorological services, the Amudarya and Syrdarya BWOs submitted to the USSR Minvodkhoz an annual plan approved in consultation with the republics, which included schedules of water release and supply from reservoirs within the respective basins. Each republic received its share of water in accordance with quotas approved by the USSR State Planning Committee. Annual plans essentially determined water reserves for the main long-period storage reservoirs (Toktogul, Andizhan, Charvak, Nurek) and were approved by the Deputy Minister of the USSR Minvodkhoz.

Allocation depended either on the area under irrigation or relevant demand calculated for each agricultural crop and district. Depending on hydrological forecasts, basin organizations could either reduce or increase quotas for each country by no more than 10%. They did not monitor water quality and were not responsible for water use in each country. The Aral Sea and Aral region basically received the water that what was left over.

The Amudarya BWO and the Syrdarya BWO have the mandate to:

  • Ensure the timely and reliable supply to all users based on agreed quotas for water abstraction from transboundary sources; control discharges to the estuaries and the Aral Sea in accordance with discharge limits; provide operational control over the discharges and refill of inter-State reservoirs, as well as their water quality;
  • Develop plans of abstraction through head gates; facilitate agreements on water quotas for all water users in the Syrdarya and Amudarya basins;
  • Establish automatic water management control systems in the Amudarya and Syrdarya river basins; measure water levels at head gates and equip them as required;
  • Carry out, together with national hydrometeorological services, measurements at control sites for precise river flow assessment at the country’s borders;
  • Carry out integrated reconstruction and technical operation of head gates, canals, automatic control systems at inter-State facilities;
  • Carry out research and provide engineering design for new water management facilities, and rebuild facilities placed under the control of theBWOs.