SCRP23 Kyrgyzstan Water Resource Management at UK

Grants and Contracts Details


1 Assessment of Springs as Water Resources for Smallholder Farming Communities in Southwest Kyrgyzstan PI: Alan Fryar, Department of Earth and Environmental Sciences, University of Kentucky Co-PIs: Karen Rignall, Department of Community and Leadership Development, University of Kentucky Sagynbek Orunbaev, Department of Applied Geology and Department of Environmental Sustainability and Climate Sciences, American University of Central Asia, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan Gulnaz Jalilova, Kyrgyz State University and Kyrgyz National Agrarian University, Bishkek, Kyrgyzstan The Kyrgyz Republic (Kyrgyzstan), one of the five former Soviet republics in Central Asia, is a landlocked, largely mountainous country that is classified as lower-middle income by the World Bank. Agriculture underpins Kyrgyzstan’s rural economy; as of 2018, it employed about 30% of the country’s economically active population and provided about 15% of GDP. However, Kyrgyzstan is marked by endemic poverty and food insecurity in rural areas. Agricultural productivity is limited in part by aging infrastructure and inadequate water management, which have led to inefficient water use and land degradation in areas of irrigated crop production. Primarily because of its agricultural systems, Kyrgyzstan is considered the third-most vulnerable country to the impacts of climate change in the former Soviet bloc. These problems are compounded by the unequal apportionment of water at the local scale within the country, as well as between Kyrgyzstan and the adjoining nations of Uzbekistan and Tajikistan. We propose to study the suitability of springs as water supplies for agricultural production and domestic use in Batken province in southwest Kyrgyzstan. Batken is among the poorest of the country’s seven provinces and its residents suffer from high morbidity associated in part with poor sanitation and impaired drinking-water quality. The main source of income in Batken is crop production, more than 90% of which occurs on irrigated lands in the semi-arid to desert environment. Farm sizes tend to be relatively small because of high population density. The province has the greatest vulnerability to climate change and the greatest per capita damage from disaster-related climate risks and agricultural impacts in Kyrgyzstan. Disputes over access to water led to cross-border conflicts with Uzbekistan in 2020 and Tajikistan in 2021. Recent development programs have sought to enhance agricultural production and livelihoods in Batken, including by targeted implementation of drip irrigation. Karst (limestone) aquifers in the region sustain springs that are underutilized for irrigation and may provide higher-quality water than existing surface-water supplies. However, to our knowledge, recharge zones of these springs have not been delineated and their water quality and seasonal variability in flow have not been characterized. Our study will include both hydrologic and behavioral research over a 2-year period. During year 1, with remote guidance from the mentors, the fellows will work with undergraduate students from the American University of Central Asia to compile existing geospatial data (geology, water resources, land use/land cover, soils, population, transportation networks) into a GIS database. This information will be used to identify suitable locations for field activities during summer 2024. Students and fellows will deploy water-level and temperature loggers at three sites (with local permission) and interview selected residents about local water-resource availability, agricultural production, water utilization, and water quality (with approved human-subjects protections). During year 2, GIS software will be used to delineate recharge zones for springs used for agricultural and domestic water supplies, and results of interviews will be used to identify patterns among participants’ socioeconomic characteristics, land use and ownership, irrigation usage, and familiarity with local climate and hydrology. During summer 2025, Fryar will work with fellows and students to download and interpret logged water-level and temperature data; sample springs for hydrochemical indicators of water quality and flow paths (field parameters, major ions, metals, nutrients, and stable isotopes); and, if feasible, conduct fluorescent dye tracing to confirm flow paths between selected recharge sites and springs. Study results and recommendations for 2 spring utilization will be shared in meetings and other communications with local participants, other community members, and representatives of government agencies.
Effective start/end date10/1/239/30/25


  • Foreign Agricultural Service: $49,989.00


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