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River runoff originating within the country is an estimated 1.0 km3/year (Table 2). There are several rivers in Turkmenistan, but most flow into the country from neighbouring countries.
Turkmenistan’s main source of water is the Amu Darya river, which rises in the snow-covered mountains of Tajikistan, enters the country in the southeast along the Afghan–Uzbek border, flows in a northwestern direction, then becomes the border with Uzbekistan before entering Uzbekistan on its way to the rapidly dying Aral Sea. Most of the Amu Darya water is withdrawn by Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan along this section of their common border (Stanchin and Lerman, 2006).
The part of the Amu Darya flow that is allocated to Turkmenistan and Uzbekistan is 50 percent each of the actual river flow at the Kerki gauging station, based on an agreement between the two countries signed in January 1996, which supplemented the 1992 Five Central Asia Countries Agreement. The Turkmen allocation corresponds to 42.27 percent of the portion of Amu Darya surface water resources on which agreements have been concluded. These agreements are calculated based on about 67 percent of the total flow produced in the Amu Darya basin, which is on average 78.46 km3/year, calculated by adding the basin’ internal renewable surface water resources (IRSWR) in the different countries: Kyrgyzstan 1.93 km3/year, Tajikistan 59.45 km3/year, Uzbekistan 4.70 km3/year, Afghanistan 11.70 km3/year and Turkmenistan 0.68 km3/year. The surface water resources allocated to Turkmenistan are thus calculated every year, depending on the flows. On average, water resources allocated to Turkmenistan in the Amu Darya basin are about 22 km3/year, including 0.68 km3/year of IRSWR. Even though Afghanistan is not part of the five former Soviet states, and therefore not part of the agreement concerning allocations between the five states, the flow of 11.7 km3/year is included in the flow measured at Kerki station in Turkmenistan, based on which allocations to the five states are calculated.
As far as the Tedzhen and Atrek waters are concerned, the treaty signed in February 1926 between Iran and Turkmenistan remains in force. This treaty stipulates that each year Turkmenistan receives a quantity equal to 70 percent of the total Tedzhen average runoff, and 50 percent of the total Atrek average runoff. This corresponds to an average of 0.75 km3/year for the Tedzhen river and 0.06 km3/year for the Atrek river (including 0.02 km3/year IRSWR).
Renewable groundwater resources are an estimated 0.405 km3/year, while the overlap between surface water and groundwater is considered negligible. Total internal renewable water resources (IRWR) are thus estimated at 1.405 km3/year. Total actual renewable water resources (ARWR) are an estimated 24.765 km3/year, equal to the total actual renewable surface water resources (ARSWR) of 24.36 plus the groundwater resources of 0.405 km3/year (Table 2 and Table 3).
The largest and most important waterway in Turkmenistan is the Kara Kum canal. This canal was constructed in the 1950s and is at 1 400 km the longest canal in the world. The canal capacity is an estimated 630 m3/s. Its inlet on the Amu Darya river is located just after the river enters Turkmenistan from Uzbekistan. The Kara Kum canal pools the Amu Darya, Murghab and Tedzhen rivers into the integrated water management system and supplies water to the densely populated southern region and irrigates more than 1 200 000 ha. The canal brings water to the capital Ashgabat and to the oases in the south. Each year the canal takes 10–12 km3 from the Amu Darya river (Orlovsky and Orlovsky, after 2002).
Produced and treated desalinated water and wastewater do not play a significant role in Turkmenistan. Agricultural drainage water, however, is a substantial additional source for pasture irrigation (the Sarajin sheep breed can drink water with a salinity of up to 10 g/litre), growing salt-resistant trees and forage crops and for fisheries. Currently, a drainage water collector is being constructed, which will accumulate practically all drainage water from all regions of Turkmenistan into the artificial ‘Golden Age Lake’, located southwest of Sarykamish lake in the north.
In 2004, wastewater production was an estimated 1.275 km3,and treated wastewater 0.336 km3 all of which was directly reused. In 1994, the volume of treated industrial and municipal wastewater was an estimated 0.025 km3/year, all of which was directly reused. For the period 1990–1994, agricultural drainage water was on average an estimated 5.4 km3/year. After being collected in the collector-drainage canals, about 2.35 km3/year (44 percent) is returned to rivers, mainly the Amu Darya river, about 2.97 km3/year (55 percent) went to natural depressions, mainly the Sarykamish lake in the north on the border with Uzbekistan, and the remaining 0.08 km3/year (1 percent) was reused for irrigation.
In 2004, total dam capacity accounted for about 6.22 km3. All reservoirs were designed and constructed for irrigation and heavily affected by silt. There are five dams with a capacity of more than 0.5 km3: Zeid on the Kara Kum canal (2.20 km3), Dostluk on the Tedzhen river (1.25 km3), Oguzkhan on the Kara Kum canal (0.88 km3), Sary-Yazy on the Murghab river (0.66 km3) and Kopetdag on the Kara Kum canal (0.55 km3). The Dostluk dam is on the border between the Islamic Republic of Iran and Turkmenistan and has been designed for flood control, hydropower generation and flow regulation.
In 1993, gross hydropower potential was an estimated 5.8 GWh, while total installed capacity was about 0.7 GWh.
The outflow of agricultural drainage water has led to the creation of artificial lakes in natural depressions. The largest is Sarykamish lake, which stores about 8 km3. A major environmental issue in Turkmenistan is the permanent accumulation of pollutant salt in these lakes, which leads to the degradation of flora and fauna.