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Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture


The State manages water resources in Kazakhstan, an authorized state body the Water Resources Committee, manages water use and conservation, local representatives and executive bodies (maslikhats, akims or oblasts, cities, districts, auls/villages), and other state bodies, manage aspects of water use within their competencies. For example, groundwater management is carried out by the WRC in cooperation with the state body for geology and conservation of mineral resources. Other specialized authorized state bodies involved in water use and conservation include those dealing with environmental protection, mineral resources, fishery, flora, fauna, and state sanitary and veterinary supervision. The relationships between state management bodies concerning the rational use and conservation of water is regulated by Kazakhstan’s legislation (UNDP, 2004).

The WRC of the Ministry of Agriculture carries out state management and protection of water resources at the national level; participates in the development and implementation of state policies for use and protection of water resources; develops programmes for the development of the water sector; and plans complex use and protection of water resources; issues licenses for special water use; allocates water resources between territories and sectors; adopts standard rules for water use and cooperates with neighbouring countries on water relations and other functions.

The basin water management units are territorial subdivisions of the WRC and provide integrated management of water resources and coordination between water users in the basin (UNDP, 2004). They carry out integrated management of the use and protection of water resources at the basin level, coordinate activities concerning water relations within the basin, perform state control of use and protection of water resources and compliance with water legislation, conduct state accounting, monitoring and public water inventory in conjunction with the environmental bodies and agencies for geology, protection of natural resources and hydrometeorology, issue licenses for special water use and other functions.

The Ministry of Environment carries out state control over the environment and issues permits to discharge treated wastewater into natural water bodies. The Republican State Enterprise ‘Kazgidromet’ of the Ministry of Environment monitors the country’s quantity and quality of surface water resources.

The Committee of State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance oversees drinking water quality.

Local representatives (maslikhats) and executive (akimats) bodies manage water relations at the regional level, within their authorities. For example, maslikhats set the rules for common water use, based on regulations approved by the authorized body. They also approve regional programmes for the rational use and conservation of water bodies, control their implementation and regulate the leasing of water facilities under communal administration. Akimats set up water organizations to manage and maintain water facilities under communal administration. They also define water conservation areas and sanitary zones to protect sources of potable water supply, in coordination with basin water bodies and territorial bodies for geology and sanitary controls; transfer water bodies into separate or joint use, in coordination with the authorized body; work out and implement regional programmes for the rational use and conservation of water bodies; and coordinate the location and use of enterprises and structures affecting water, as well as conditions of work on ponds and in water conservation areas; and impose restrictions on the use of water bodies (UNDP, 2004).

The first water user organizations (WUAs) were established in 1996.

Water management

In 1993, sovkhoz (state farms) and kolkhoz (collective farms) were still predominant in Kazakhstan covering 92 percent of the cultivated area, which accounted for 35 million ha, with private plots covering 0.6 percent, and the joint stock companies and farmers associations 7.4 percent. The land reform process was extended further after 1994, and most land was transferred to farmers or companies, through private ownership or long-term leases (99 years).

State water management in Kazakhstan is based on the principles of recognizing the national and social importance of water resources, sustainable water use, separating the functions of state control and management and basin management. Based on these principles, in 1998 the government began structural reorganization of the water system, aimed at clear assignment of responsibilities at national and local levels. According to Government Resolution No. 1359 of 30 December 1998, oblast committees for water resources were reorganized into “republican state enterprises for water”, charged with technical maintenance of hydrosystems, water headworks, mains systems, pumping stations, group water pipelines, i.e. the facilities that provide consumers with water. The next stage of reform was the 2001–2002 transition of water facilities (excluding facilities of national importance) from national to communal ownership, as well as assigning the local level with the authority to manage them. Delineation of water resources management functions and improving the mechanisms of regulating water use allows consideration of the interests of water users, both within the entire basin and in a certain area. It also allows effective measures to be taken to protect basin waters from exhaustion (UNDP, 2004).

A number of water projects of national and regional importance are being implemented at national and basin levels. For example, the construction of hydraulic structures for various purposes in the surface water bodies, construction of groundwater intakes, regulation of river flows and modes of operation for large reservoirs, implementation of measures for maximum reduction of loss of water and its supply and distribution. At state level management, operation and maintenance of state-run water networks and facilities is carried out as well as control over the operation of water facilities owned by cooperatives, WUAs and individuals to ensure the safety and effectiveness of these facilities.

Because of the lack of national funds to address water issues, leading to deterioration of facilities and structures, there is a need to involve the private sector in the water sector – mostly in water supply and rehabilitation and maintenance of water systems. In forming this water ‘market’, the basin water management units will play an important role in setting clear goals for privatization in the water industry and elaborating its rules and legal base (UNDP, 2004).

The country is seeking assistance from international financial institutions to resolve water sector issues such as the World Bank, Asian and Islamic Development Banks, UNDP and others. Germany, Japan, France, the United Kingdom, Austria and Kuwait will provide assistance and support to resolve water issues in Kazakhstan. The WRC project management team is coordinating implementation of the following water management projects funded by foreign loans and grants (UNDP, 2004): regulation of the Syr Darya riverbed and preservation of the northern portion of the Aral Sea (Phase 1); water supply for the towns of Aralsk, Kazalinsk and Novokazalinsk; water supply and sanitation for northeast Kazakhstan; restoration and management of the environment in the Nura-Ishim basin.

The UNDP Project ‘National integrated water resources management and water efficiency plan’ has the following goals: Development of a national integrated water resources management (IWRM) and water efficiency plan; creation of river basins councils; and development of a strategy for achieving Millennium Development Goals (MDG) on water supply and sanitation. The project supports a campaign for raising public awareness in regard to the water situation in the country, the importance of MDGs, principles of IWRM and the importance of achieving those (UNDP, 2006).

The government is attending to water supply and water allocation. The programme ‘Ak Bulak’ was developed to provide quality drinking water and wastewater services from 2011 to 2020. The programme is designed in accordance with the Strategic Plan of Development of the Republic of Kazakhstan until 2020, approved by the the President of the Republic of Kazakhstan’s Decree No. 922, dated 1 February 2010. This programme provides for the protection of water sources from pollution by sewage; involves private capital in water supply and water removal; maintains the efficient and profitable operation of enterprises and organizations; upgrades water supply and drainage systems; maximizes use of groundwater for drinking water supply and improves the quality of design and survey work for water management.


In 1994, Kazakhstan was the first Central Asian country to implement water fees. The price of water, which is different for each province, was defined by volume and according to the added value irrigation could bring to agricultural production.

Water user fees fund maintenance of hydraulic structures and water facilities. Facilities on state property that are import to the nation and oblasts, are partly funded by the national budget (UNDP, 2004). Rates for water supply services to water users, water delivery and water drains are approved in accordance with Kazakhstan legislation on natural monopolies and regulated markets. The procedure and terms of payment for water supply services are determined by the agreements between the parties.

Despite numerous water-related problems over the 1990s, the government has taken measures to help ameliorate this critical situation. As of 2002, the government resumed financing of the water sector and allocated US$6 million in that year, for a total of US$15 million. The national ‘Drinking water programme’, which was passed by the government, commited to investing US$40 million to implement the programme until 2010 (UNDP, 2004).

Policies and legislation

During the Soviet period the Law of 1970 ‘Basics of water legislation of the USSR and Union Republics’ and the Water Code of the Kazakh SSR of 1972 served as a legal framework for water relations. After declaring sovereignty in 1993 Kazakhstan adopted the Water Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan. Over the past period many provisions of the prior Water Code of the Republic of Kazakhstan (1993) have become obsolete and are constraining market reforms in the water sector (UNDP, 2004).

In 2003, a new Water Code was adopted, which was required to address development of market relations in the water sector and agriculture. Specifically, the new Water Code provides for transfer of waterworks facilities to water users for rent, trust management or use without charge. The document was based on the international principles of the fair and equal access of water users to water; priority was given to drinking water supply. The new Water Code designated the WRC to issue all approvals related to surface water and groundwater. Prior to this, the Committee of Geology and Conservation of Earth Resources, under the Ministry of Power Engineering and Mineral Resources was in charge of issues pertaining to the use and protection of groundwater (UNDP, 2004).

An important innovation of the Water Code has been the strengthening of the principles of water management related to basins. For example, the role and goals of the Basin Water Departments, previously defined by WRC, are now included in the Water Code. In order to define and coordinate the activities of various governmental and non-governmental entities, such as WUAs, non-governmental water organizations, and basin councils. the Water Code provides for their entering into basin agreements to rehabilitate and protect water sources.

A basin council is an advisory body at the basin level that jointly resolves issues related to water fund use and the protection and implementation of signed basin agreements. In addition, the Code focused attention on transboundary waters and included a special section on international cooperation (UNDP, 2004). In 2009 the Code was amended and supplemented.

The Land Code contains a special chapter on water fund land, which includes land occupied by reservoirs, hydraulic structures and other water facilities, as well as water protection areas and strips and zones that provide sanitary protection of water intakes for drinking water. The main economic purpose of water fund land is to serve the use and protection of water. This type of land, therefore, is subject to special legislative provisions specifically reflecting the legal status of land in this category.

The Code on ‘Administrative Offences’ of 2001 sets out the responsibilities of legal entities and individuals for violation of the water legislation of Kazakhstan (UNDP, 2004).

In 2003, the ‘Law on rural consumer cooperatives of water users’ was adopted. This law deals with issues pertaining to the rights and responsibilities of water users, water management at sources for irrigation and water supply development, procedures for establishing rural WUAs, the legal capacity of these associations, membership, property rules, as well as procedures for the reorganization and liquidation of such associations (UNDP, 2004).

The Environmental Code (2007) defines the legal, economic and social basis of environmental protection. It regulates the use of natural resources, including protection from domestic and industrial pollution. The Code also establishes a framework for economic instruments, such as payment for the use of natural resources and disposal of household and industrial waste as well as economic incentives for environmental protection.


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       Quote as: FAO. 2016. AQUASTAT website. Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO). Website accessed on [yyyy/mm/dd].
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