Shared resources but divergent needs: water-agriculture-energy nexus in Central Asia
Water is a scarce and unevenly distributed resource in Central Asia with a significant transboundary context. The transboundary links are particularly strong in the region's south, where most river runoff originates in the highlands of Tajikistan and the Kyrgyz Republic, while the bulk of water withdrawals occur in irrigated plains of Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, and southern Kazakhstan. However, the reliance on water resources across the upstream and downstream states has contrasting patterns. Due to the absence of fossil fuel reserves, Tajikistan and Kyrgyzstan obtain more than 90% of their electricity from hydropower. In the downstream states, water is a critical resource for irrigated crop production, which accounts for more than 90% of total water withdrawals (FAO, 2022).The water-agriculture-energy nexus in Central Asia, as shown in Figure 1, is augmented by the high energy consumption of the agriculture sector for pumping irrigation water during the vegetation season (Shenhav et al., 2017), producing fertilizers, and mechanizing agriculture. There are also substantial links between the water and energy systems in downstream countries rich in fossil resources, such as Kazakhstan, which use considerable amounts of water for the extraction and processing of fossil fuels, particularly for cooling power plants (Karatayev et al., 2017). However, the annual cycles of water demand across the agriculture and energy sectors do not match, placing considerable reliance on countries located downstream of the respective river basins on the timely release of water from large hydro dams upstream (see Case study 1).