Tajikistan takes one of the leading positions in the Central Asian region as well as throughout the world on the reserves of water resources.
Large reserves of snow and glaciers are accumulated in the country. The number of glaciers in the country amounts 14509 with a total area of glaciations 11146 km2. The total stock of the ice in glaciers is about 845 km3, which is 13 times more than the annual flow of all rivers of the country.
947 rivers flow through the territory of Tajikistan, the total length exceeds 28500 km. Over 80% of the Amudarya River flow and 1% of the Sirdarya River flow are formed in Tajikistan. As a whole, it is 64 km3 of river flow per year, which amounts to 55.4% of the total drainage of the Aral Sea basin.
The country has about 1300 lakes with total area of 705 km2. Lakes of Tajikistan contain more than 46.3 km3 of water, including 20 km3 of fresh water.
As of today, there 9 reservoirs are exploited in Tajikistan with the total area of 664 km2 of water surface. The total volume of the reservoirs is 15.344 km3, which is 13% of the average annual flow of rivers of the Aral Sea basin. The useful capacity of reservoirs of the country totals 7.63 km3.
The potential groundwater reserve of Tajikistan is 6,9 km3/year. The actual exploitation groundwater reserves are estimated at 2,5 km3/year.
The main consumers of water and water users in Tajikistan
The main consumers of water in Tajikistan are irrigated agriculture, the share varies from 85 to 90% of the total volume of water used, drinking water supply up to 2-3%, industry up to 2-3% and fisheries — 2%.
Irrigated agriculture is a strategically important area of the economy. It provides up to 90% of agricultural production, which is about 20% of the national GDP. Thus, irrigated agriculture makes a significant contribution for economic development and food security. The importance of irrigated agriculture is significant in ensuring employment for the rural population constituting more than 70% of the population of the country.
Recreational resources of Tajikistan are also an important potential for future development of the country. The country has 162 natural landscape monuments, more than 200 mineral springs, 18 mud and salt lakes. These resources are effective for investments of national and foreign capital and in the future may become one of the main components of the country’s economic development.
Water resources play an important role in conservation of ecological systems, particularly wetlands and especially protected natural areas, the most important ones are «Tigrovaya Balka» and the Tajik National Park, which have biospheric value.
Along with the socio-economic benefits of water resources, there is also a negative impact. Difficult geographical conditions make the country vulnerable to natural disasters such as mudslides and floods repeated up to 25 times per decade. In very wet years, the damage from floods and mudslides in Tajikistan reaches to hundreds of millions of dollars. Only the damage caused by mudslides and floods in 2010 amounted to more than 600 million USD. This seriously undermines the country’s efforts to achieve the internationally agreed development goals, including the MDGs.
The foreground water use in the country is drinking water supply and sanitation, however, in terms of importance in ensuring economic development the hydropower dominates.
Tajikistan’s hydropower potential is estimated at 527 billion. kWh/year that three times the current electricity consumption in Central Asia. As regard of potential reserves of hydropower, Tajikistan ranks eighth in the world, after China, Russia, USA, Brazil, Zaire, India and Canada. As regard to specific indicators of hydropower per square kilometer (3,696.9 thousand kWh. per year / km2) and per capita (65.9 thousand kWh. Per year / person), the country ranks the first and second in the world, respectively.
The current use of hydropower resources in Tajikistan allows producing about 17 billion. kWh of electricity per year, which is about 3% of the existing capacity. The share of hydropower in the overall scheme of the fuel and energy balance of the country is over 98%. The main consumers of electricity in the country are industry, agriculture, transport, communication, and household sector. In principle, these sectors are crucial for economic development as evidenced by the structure of the country’s GDP.