Document Type

Article

Publication Date

5-5-2017

Publication Title

Water

ISSN

2073-4441

Volume

9

Issue

5

DOI

http://dx.doi.org/10.3390/w9050325

Abstract

Water vulnerabilities in Central Asia are affected by a complex combination of climate-sensitive water sources, trans-boundary political tensions, infrastructure deficiencies and a lack of water management organization from community to federal levels. This study aims to clarify the drivers of water stress across the 440 km Naryn River basin, headwater stem to the Syr Darya and the disappearing North Aral Sea. We use a combination of human and physical geography approaches to understand the meltwater-controlled hydrology of the system (using hydrochemical mixing models) as well as the human-water experience (via community surveys). Surveys indicate that current water stress is primarily a function of water management and access issues resulting from the clunky transition from Soviet era large-scale agriculture to post-Soviet small-plot farming. Snow and ice meltwaters play a dominant role in the surface and ground water supplies to downstream communities across the study's 4220 m elevation gradient, so future increases to water stress due to changes in volume and timing of water supply is likely given frozen waters' high sensitivities to warming temperatures. The combined influence of social, political and climate-induced pressures on water supplies in the Naryn basin suggest the need for proactive planning and adaptation strategies, and warrant concern for similar melt-sourced Central Asian watersheds.

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