South Ferghana Canal. Source: IWMI
The researchers determined the performance of different irrigation methods under the conditions of the Aral Sea Basin and found that current practices are energy-inefficient and create return flow, waterlogging and salinity problems. Drip irrigation, however, achieved a 30% saving in water – and therefore pumping energy – while improving yields.
The analysis was a robust application of the water-energy-food nexus concept, showing how on-farm choices could lead to multiple benefits. Research in Karshi Steppe indicated that optimized irrigation could save half a trillion liters of water, spare 259 gigawatt-hours of electricity, and cut 122,000 tons of carbon dioxide emissions.
IWMI shared these results at a workshop with Uzbekistan's presidential administration and Ministries of Water Resources and Economy. The researchers' recommendations – that the government shift subsidies towards water-saving technologies, while seeking to build institutions and create incentives for water and energy savings – were taken to heart.
IWMI’s Kakhramon Djumaboev raising awareness for youth about the importance of saving water and maintaining a clean environment.
The government quickly adopted a new strategy to expand drip irrigation: they would pay for up to half the costs of setting up systems, and farmers who did so would be exempt from land taxes for five years. The initial target was to roll out water-saving technologies on more than 250,000 hectares of land between 2019 and 2022, and this was soon upped to an even more ambitious 450,000 hectares.
The embrace of the research was helped by the widespread collaboration that went into it. This included the United States Agency for International Development, National Academy of Sciences, Department of Agriculture, Uzbekistan's Uzgip Institute, and the Amu-Kashkadarya Basin Irrigation System Authority and Information Analytical Center.
The program launched with a presidential resolution in 2020, receiving national television attention. As farmers respond and try out drip irrigation, the shift in subsidies should enable better livelihoods, less competition for resources, and a healthier balance in the water-energy-food nexus.
This article was originally published here by Thrive blog and is republished with their kind permission.
- Article // Thinking Hydrologically - An Interview with Oyture Anarbekov, IWMI Country Manager – Uzbekistan
- Transboundary Basins // Reconciling Resource Uses in Transboundary Basins: Assessment of the Water-Food-Energy-Ecosystems Nexus in the Syr Darya River Basin
- Central Asia Nexus Regional Dialogue // Outcomes of the first Regional Steering Committee Meeting
- Nexus Interview // Water Cooperation in Central Asia
- Nexus Regional Dialogue Central Asia // European Union supports Kazakhstan’s efforts to restore the Aral Sea Basin ecosystem