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Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations

Rome, 1997


FAO's AQUASTAT programme, initiated in 1993, aims to meet the demand for information on water resources and use at regional level, with particular emphasis on irrigation and drainage. The objectives of the programme are to collect and present, in a systematic way, data on rural water use at country level.

With an area of more than 22 million km², the former Soviet Union (FSU) covers about 17% of the world and presents a wide range of climatic and physiographic situations, from the arctic zones of Siberia to the arid deserts of Central Asia.

To these conditions correspond a large variety of agricultural water management situations. Irrigation predominates in the Central Asian countries (in total, the FSU countries concentrate about 9% of the world's irrigated land), while in the temperate countries of the north drainage is of major importance to agricultural productivity.

The FSU countries are currently in a transitional period which is affecting the agricultural sector. New policies are being designed and implemented, new institutional structures are replacing those of the Soviet Union and, in general, the move towards a market-oriented economy is inducing rapid changes in cropping patterns. These changes have a direct and often radical impact on irrigation and drainage, with major challenges to come in the fields of irrigation management transfer and infrastructure maintenance.

Furthermore, the issues related to international water courses and the stress on water resources in the most arid parts of the FSU represent another challenge to the new countries. Their governments now have to develop mechanisms for the sustainable management of their water resources.

This publication presents a description of the irrigation and drainage subsector in the FSU countries, with relevant tables and maps, together with a regional synopsis. It is hoped that the information provided here will be of use to all those interested in issues related to water resources management, irrigation and drainage in the region.


This report was prepared and written with the collaboration of a large number of individuals. The whole project was coordinated and managed by Mathieu Bousquet and Karen Frenken, acting as main authors and editors of the survey, in collaboration with Jean-Marc Faurès, from the AQUASTAT team of the Land and Water Development Division of FAO in Rome.

Country surveys were carried out in cooperation with national and regional experts: Irina Avakyan, Victor Dukhovny, Janusz Gudowski, Yusif Guliyef, Ludmila Kiayshkina, Nariman Kipshakbaev, Malkhaz Khurtsilava, Albinas Kusta, Jafar Mamedov, Alexander Osipov, Florian Plit, Joanna Plit, Elena Roshenko, Vilik Sarkissian, Vadim Sokolov, Toomas Tamm, Vaino Tamm and Wladyslaw Zakowski.

The authors wish to acknowledge the assistance provided by Jean Margat and Philippe Pallas in reviewing all the information related to water resources. The data processing software was developed by Dario Berardi, Mauro de Castro and Gianni Pastore. Data processing was performed by Marco Tagliaferri. The figures were prepared by Jippe Hoogeveen and Manlio Capucci.

The publication has been edited by Julian Plummer and prepared for printing by Chrissi Smith Redfern.


























List of tables


1. Regional distribution of the population

2. Regional distribution of internal renewable water resources

3. Regional distribution of water withdrawal

4. Regional distribution of irrigation methods

5. Irrigation techniques by region

6. Origin of irrigation water by region

7. Regional distribution of the main irrigated crops

8. Regional distribution of drainage methods

9. Renewable surface water resources of the Aral Sea basin

10. Land use and irrigation potential in the former Soviet Union countries

11. Population of the former Soviet Union countries

12. Renewable water resources in the former Soviet Union countries

13. Water withdrawal in the former Soviet Union countries

14. Irrigation in the former Soviet Union countries

15. Irrigation techniques in the former Soviet Union countries

16. Origin of irrigation water in the former Soviet Union countries

17. Salinization and drainage in the former Soviet Union countries

18. The former Soviet Union countries compared to the world

List of figures


1. Evolution of population, irrigation and water withdrawal in the Aral Sea basin

2. Trends in the Aral Sea

3. The five regions of the former Soviet Union

4. Average annual precipitation

5. Renewable water resources dependency ratio

6. Internal renewable water resources per inhabitant (1996)

7. Actual renewable water resources per inhabitant (1996)

8. Agricultural water withdrawal as percentage of total water withdrawal

9. Water withdrawal per inhabitant

10. Water withdrawal as percentage of internal renewable water resources

11. Water withdrawal as percentage of actual renewable water resources

12. Area under irrigation as percentage of irrigation potential

13. Area under irrigation as percentage of cultivated area

14. Area under sprinkler irrigation and micro irrigation as percentage of total

15. Drained area as percentage of cultivated area

16. Percentage of area equipped for full or partial control irrigation drained

17. Percentage of drained area equipped with subsurface drains

18. The Aral Sea basin

19. Aral Sea basin: Irrigated area as percentage of total area

20. Aral Sea basin: Irrigated area as percentage of cultivated area

List of abbreviations

ARSWR Actual Renewable Surface Water Resources
ARWR Actual Renewable Water Resources
BWO Basin Water Organization
FSU Former Soviet Union
GDP Gross Domestic Product
ICAS Interstate Council for the Aral Sea problem
ICWC Interstate Commission for Water Coordination
IFAS International Fund for the Aral Sea
ILO International Labour Organization
IRSWR Internal Renewable Surface Water Resources
IRWR Internal Renewable Water Resources
O&M Operation and Maintenance
RSWR Renewable Surface Water Resources
RWR Renewable Water Resources
SSR Soviet Socialist Republic
USA United States of America
USSR Union of Soviet Socialist Republics
WUA Water Users Association




1 km3 = 1 x 109 m3 = 1 000 x 106 m3 = 1 000 million m3


1 km2 = 100 ha


1 GW = 1 x 103 MW = 1 x 106 kW = 1 x 109 W

1 W = 1 J/s


1 GWh = 1 x 103 MWh = 1 x 106 kWh

1 kWh = 3.6 x 106 J


The information presented in this publication is collected from a variety of sources. It reflects FAO's best estimates, based on the most accurate and up-to-date information available at the date of printing.

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