Water Resources of Central Asia: Historical Overview

  • Sergey S. ZhiltsovEmail author
  • Marina S. Zhiltsova
  • Nikolay P. Medvedev
  • Dmitry Y. Slizovskiy
Part of the The Handbook of Environmental Chemistry book series (HEC, volume 85)


For several millennia the water resources had been the key issue for the development of Central Asia. They were used for the development of agriculture, water supply, fishery, navigation, and, generally, the national economies. They were also natural barriers for protection from enemies. With the economic development and population growth, the water had become the most deficit resource. Taking into consideration the above, the history of water relations in Central Asia was fraught with acute struggle for water that was always the most vital resource in such arid intercontinental region located far from seas and oceans.

With time, the population growth and progress in science and technology had changed the approaches to water resource management: construction of irrigation canals and hydraulic structures was developing, and new reservoirs and waterworks for water accumulation and redistribution were built. In general, the hydraulic structures had been built in Central Asia for many centuries and reflected the technological level.

Water resources were used to meet the social and economic needs of the population. Waterways contributed much to the establishment of the Great Silk Road and Great Indian Road. They were very important in military terms as the troops were deployed by rivers.

Waterways in Central Asia were also used for navigation which played a great role in the development of economy and trade, but the navigation here had some specific feature – it was of a closed nature which made it purely regional.

The approaches to water resource management have not changed for many centuries. The extending irrigated lands required more and more water which initiated the construction of hydraulic structures. As a result, in the second half of the twentieth century, the irrigated areas in Central Asia really increased permitting these countries to become less dependent on purchase of cotton, to resolve their food supply problems, to provide the required quantities of water to the population, and to establish market relations in industry. Such policy has led to practically complete intake of water resources which deficit had intensified by the 1980s.


Agriculture Central Asia Irrigation Navigation Water resources 


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Copyright information

© Springer International Publishing AG, part of Springer Nature 2018

Authors and Affiliations

  • Sergey S. Zhiltsov
    • 1
    • 2
    Email author
  • Marina S. Zhiltsova
    • 1
  • Nikolay P. Medvedev
    • 2
  • Dmitry Y. Slizovskiy
    • 2
  1. 1.The Diplomatic Academy of the Ministry of Foreign Affairs of the Russian FederationMoscowRussia
  2. 2.Peoples’ Friendship University of Russia (RUDN University)MoscowRussia

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