Taming the Amudarya’s waters


According to the TERRA-MODIS satellite platform's data as of 31 March 2018, the snow cover area of the river basins in the Amudarya and Syrdarya upstream is significantly less in comparison with the same period of snowy 2017.

Snow cover areas of the Amudarya upstream as of the end of March 2018 and of the end of March 2017

Figure 1 – Snow cover areas of the Amudarya upstream as of the end of March 2018

In these circumstances, long-term forecasts of water content for the Amudarya downstream warns that the flow during the vegetation period is expected to be within 40% of the norm. In other words, the current year will be dry in the areas under review. This will require additional adaptation measures, primarily in agriculture, to reduce the impact of potential risks associated with shortage of water.


In the farmer's activities, it is important to know how much water to expect in the upcoming sowing season, what crop to plant and when to do this most efficiently. Planning is impossible without early forecasts, especially for an arid region with hardly the most favorable weather conditions for agriculture.

Such forecasts can be made by using the Drought Early Warning System (DEWS), which has been upgraded within the framework of the project "Developing climate resilience of farming communities in the drought prone parts of Uzbekistan" implemented jointly by the United Nations Development Programme and the Centre of Hydrometeorological Service at the Ministry of Emergency Situations of the Republic of Uzbekistan (Uzhydromet) with the financial assistance of the Adaptation Fund under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change (UNFCCC).

According to the World Meteorological Organization (WMO), the losses from weather related disasters reached $320 billion in 2017, which is a record amount. Moreover, along with 2015 and 2016, last year is "...among the three warmest years on record," - the statement said.

Improved forecasting of dangerous hydrometeorological phenomena by providing timely and accurate forecasts to the relevant organizations and the public can save lives and save money, and save infrastructure from damage.

The specialists of Uzhydromet have developed this system for flow formation zones – the Amudarya and Syrdarya rivers upstream. It should be noted that Karakalpakstan is located in the Amudarya downstream, where the conditions for this flow to be used and re-born are fundamentally different from the upstream zones. Within the framework of the project, the system was adapted to the conditions of the region's geographical location. Currently, it produces two outputs – a qualitative assessment of water content, which allows determining whether a year is provided with sufficient water resources or drought is expected, and data that give insight into the quantitative characteristics of water supply for a specific object.

“An important activity of the project is the automation of the entire observation network in Karakalpakstan. In March-April 2017, we installed equipment to upgrade the meteorological observation network of 10 meteorological stations. We attracted specialists from Russia, Kyrgyzstan and Italy. Such equipment is used in the country for the first time. It allows you to accurately measure the basic meteorological parameters at precisely specified time intervals, calculate a number of indicators based on the measurement results, quickly and correctly encode information, draw up the text of telegrams and send information to the data collection centers. In accordance with the WMO recommendations, the automation of hydrometeorological networks requires parallel measurements (manually and by using automatic devices) during at least two years. The next step is to assess the homogeneity of the historical series of measurements and sensor data in order to make decisions on putting observations into automated mode” – said Alexander Merkushkin, Project Manager.

In addition, the project includes the automation of the water consumption level observation systems at two key gauges – Tuyamuyun and Kipchak. This reduces the time and labor costs to conduct the relevant measurements. The entire process, with high standing water, takes 30 - 40 minutes at present, while on average 5 - 6 hours in the past. Through the use of multi-functional telemetry, the quality of obtained information has improved, too. Data on the depth and condition of the river's bottom has become available, which is important to consider during navigation, construction of bridges and ferries.

However, the specialists note that just collecting and accumulating data is not enough – information should be disseminated among the target audience. To this end, a multi-module information platform is being developed, which will promptly provide end-users with key information in a form convenient for them.

The main advantages of the upgraded hydrometeorological and climate services, for both different groups of the population and sectors of the economy, include:

  • Timely provision of quality information to the systems of forecasting, warning and decision-making support with regard to reducing potential losses from climate-related natural hazards.
  • Provision of the necessary information in planning, developing and implementing measures aimed at adaptation to climate change impacts.
  • Improved efficiency of water resources management, taking into account the amount of precipitation available and the potential risks of droughts or floods.
  • Reduced vulnerability of the agricultural sector to climate-related hazards through the implementation of adaptation measures.
  • Efficient management of reservoirs by using data of hydrological forecasts.
  • Ability to plan the activities of households and individual entrepreneurs, based on accurate weather forecasts.
  • In the transport sector, ability to deliver goods and passengers more efficiently due to taking into account weather forecasts.

And yet, this is a great tool to optimize the electricity production with renewable energy, manage the appropriate infrastructure and make decisions with regard to the level of the necessary investment for the future. Indeed, in an era when the use of alternative energy sources is a solution to many economic and environmental problems, timely and accurate information on weather and climate scenarios is particularly important.

The set of project measures aimed at upgrading the hydrometeorological network and developing the drought early warning system will make a tangible contribution to improving the climate resilience of vulnerable communities, which is the main objective of the project.

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