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Note: Turkmenistan was officially included amongst the countries of MO's Regional Office for the Near East in March 1996. For the present publication, has not been possible to perform an in-depth survey of the information on water and irrigation and so the data presented below are probably very incomplete.


Turkmenistan is a landlocked country in Central Asia, bordered in the west by the Caspian Sea, in the north-west by Kazakhstan, in the north-east by Uzbekistan, in the south-east by Afghanistan and in the south-west by Iran. It formally declared its independence from the USSR in October 1991. The total area of the country is 488 100 km. The Kara Kum desert comprises 80% of the total area of the country. In the south west, along the border with Iran, lies the Kopetdag mountain chain with its highest peak at 2 919 metres. The Kougitangtau mountain with a peak at 3 137 metres is located in the east at the border with Uzbekistan.

In 1993, the total cultivated area was estimated at 1 480 000 ha, which is 3 % of the total area of the country. About 95% consisted of annual crops, and 5% of permanent crops, including vineyards, pistachio nuts, figs and olives.

TABLE 1 - Basic statistics and population

Physical areas:
Area of the country 1995 48810000 ha
Cultivable area   - ha
Cultivated area 1993 1 480 000 ha
- annual crops 1993 1 400 000 ha
- permanent crops 1993 80 000 ha
Total population 1995 4 099 000 inhabitants
Population density 1995 8 inhab./km
Rural population 1995 55 %
Water supply coverage:
Urban population   - %
Rural population   - %

The total population is about 4.1 million (1995), of which 55% is rural. Annual population growth was estimated at almost 2% in 1995, while it was 2.5% during the period 1979-89. In 1994, 44 % of the total labour force was engaged in agriculture, including forestry. Agriculture accounts for almost 50% of the country's GDP.



The climate of Turkmenistan is of the subtropical desert type. In the Kara Kum desert, rainfall is so rare, that people remember single rainstorms that occurred years ago.

Water resources

The country has few internal renewable water resources, estimated at 1 km/year. The Amu Darya is the largest incoming river with an annual flow estimated at 70 km. It enters the country in the south-east after running along the border between Afghanistan and Turkmenistan over a length of about 60 km. It flows to the north-east and runs along the border between Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan for about 200 km before entering Uzbekistan.

TABLE 2 - Water: sources and use

Renewable water resources:
Average precipitation   - mm/yr
    - km/yr
Internal renewable water resources   1.0 km/yr
Total (actual) renewable water resources 1995 71.0 km/yr
Dependency ratio 1995 98.6 %
Total (actual) renewable water resources per inhabitant 1995 17 321 m/yr
Total dam capacity   - 106 m
Water withdrawal:
- agricultural 1989 20 748 106 m/yr
- domestic 1989 228 106 m/yr
- industrial 1989 1 824 106 m/yr
Total water withdrawal   22 800 106 m/yr
per inhabitant 1989 - m/yr
as % of total (actual) renewable water resources   32.1 %
Other water withdrawal   - 106 m/yr
Average groundwater depletion   - 106 m/yr
Wastewater - Non-conventional water sources:
- produced wastewater   706 m/yr
- treated wastewater   - 106 m/yr
- reused treated wastewater   - 106 m/yr
Desalinated water   - 106 m/yr

Several smaller rivers (the Murgap, the Tejen, the Atrek) descend from the Kopetdag and other mountains in the south. The central and western regions have no significant natural waterways.

The Kara Kum canal, the longest irrigation canal in the world, 1300 km long, was constructed during the 1950s. Its inlet at the Amu Darya river is located just at the point where the river enters the country. It brings water to the oases in the south and to the capital Asghabat.

Total water withdrawal was 22.8 km in 1989, of which 91% for agricultural purposes (Figure 1). Contamination of surface water and groundwater with agricultural chemicals and pesticides is a serious problem. An inadequate supply of clean drinking water is a serious health hazard in Turkmenistan.

Figure 1 - Water withdrawal (total: 22.8 km in 1989)


Turkmenistan is largely a desert country with nomadic cattle raising and intensive agriculture in the oases, irrigated with water from the Kara Kum canal in the south and the Tashauz canal in the north. Irrigation is estimated to cover around 1 300000 ha, which is 88% of the cultivated area. About half of the irrigated area is estimated to be planted with cotton, making Turkmenistan the world's tenth largest cotton producer. Other irrigated crops are cereals (mainly wheat), vegetables and fruit.

TABLE 3 - Irrigation and drainage

Irrigation potential   - ha
1. Full or partial control irrigation: equipped area 1993 1300 000 ha
- surface irrigation   - ha
- sprinkler irrigation   - ha
- micro-irrigation   - ha
% of area irrigated from groundwater   - %
% of area irrigated from surface water   - %
% of area irrigated from non-conventional sources   - %
% of equipped area actually irrigated   - %
2. Spate irrigation area   - ha
3. Equipped wetland and inland valley bottoms (i.v.b.)   - ha
Total irrigation (1+2+3) 1993 1300000 ha
- as % of cultivated area   88 %
4. Flood recession cropping area   - ha
Total water managed area (1+2+3+4) 1993 1300000 ha
- as % of cultivated area   88 %
- increase over last 10 years   - %
- power irrigated area as % of water managed area   - %
Full or partial control irrigation schemes: Criteria
Large-scale schemes > - ha   - ha
Medium-scale schemes   - ha
Small-scale schemes < - ha   - ha
Total number of households in irrigation      
Irrigated crops:
Total irrigated grain production   - tons
as % of total grain production   - %
Harvested crops under irrigation (full or partial control)   - ha
- permanent crops: total   - ha
- annual crops: total   - ha
.   - ha
.   - ha
.   - ha
.   - ha
. other annual crops   - ha
Drainage - Environment:
Drained area   - ha
as % of cultivated area   - %
- drained areas in full or partial control irrigated areas   - ha
- drained areas in equipped wetland and i.v.b   - ha
- other drained areas   - ha
- total drained area with subsurface drains   - ha
- total drained area with surface drains   - ha
Flood-protected area   - ha
Area salinized by irrigation 1994 598 000 ha
Population affected by water-borne diseases   - inhabitants

The unprotected banks of the Kara Kum canal have caused massive waterlogging and salinization of the surrounding land. It is estimated that some 46% of the cultivated land is now suffering from severe salinization. The land is also heavily polluted because of the overuse of pesticides and fertilizers.


No information available.



One of the most serious policy dilemmas facing countries in the central Asian region concerns the environmental problems of the Aral Sea basin as a result of the absence of environmental considerations in agricultural practices, industrial development and waste management.

The special problems related to the Aral Sea desiccation are addressed through a potable water and a regional water management programme. Turkmenistan is one of the beneficiaries of the Central Asian Environmental Plan which seeks to ensure potable drinking water and improve water management throughout the area. It is also concerned with cooperation and water policy reforms to solve the Aral Sea disaster.


The following information was available on lnternet in August 1996: Embassy of Turkmenistan in the USA. 1995. Turkmenistan at a glance: Turkmenistan fact sheet.

United States Government. 1995. Turkmenistan: country fact sheet. CIA. USAID. 1995. Turkmenistan: country profile.

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