Transition to emergency mode of operation to save water
On November 29, President Shavkat Mirziyoyev chaired a meeting on measures for the rational use of water resources and reducing losses.
In Uzbekistan, 20 percent of water resources are formed in the country, the rest – on the territory of neighboring states. As a result of climate change, water sources are decreasing year after year. The situation regarding the management of transboundary rivers remains difficult. According to forecasts, by 2030, the water shortage in Uzbekistan could reach 15 billion cubic meters.
However, even in such conditions, water is used irrationally. In Uzbekistan, 90 percent of water resources are spent on agriculture. For example, 10-11 thousand cubic meters of water are spent per year to irrigate 1 hectare of cotton field, while in countries with similar climate and soil, it is 2-3 times less water. And all this is achieved through proper water management and preventing their loss.
About $1 billion is spent annually on water management. The sector is the 4th largest recipient of budget allocations after education, healthcare, and agriculture. However, this does not give the expected effect due to incorrect calculations and the persistence of outdated approaches to water resource management.
Problems, new initiatives, and challenges in this area were discussed at the meeting. The Head of state noted that the coming year will be a period of transition to an emergency mode of operation to save water.
In this case, the primary task is concreting canals and ditches. It is estimated that, on average, 14 billion cubic meters, or 36 percent of water, is lost per year in natural cover irrigation systems without any economic benefit. The most significant losses occurred in the Republic of Karakalpakstan, Namangan, Navoi, Khorezm, and Bukhara regions. The water supply situation could be clearer in the 175 thousand hectares of cultivated areas at the canals’ end.
The economy loses $5 billion in revenue per year due to water loss.
In this regard, the water sector has declared a “high-impact year for canal concreting”. The task has been set to concrete 1,500 kilometers next year, which is 4 times more canals than this year. In 2025, at least 2 thousand kilometers of canals will have to be concreted.
It was emphasized that November to March is the most optimal time for this. Therefore, we need to start building canals with ready-made projects now. In one year, hokims of regions and districts were instructed to convert 3,500 kilometers of internal irrigation systems to concrete pavements. It was noted that costs could be halved by providing special equipment and construction materials to clusters and farmers interested in this.
The second important task is to introduce water-saving technologies.
Uzbekistan has 4.3 million hectares of irrigated area, of which 30 percent have introduced water-saving technologies. In such clusters and farms, water savings of 30-40 percent, fertilizers and fuel by 25-30 percent, and increased productivity are achieved.
However, in Kashkadarya region, where water costs are high, only 16 percent of the land is irrigated using this method. More work should be carried out on laser leveling of land, which is the simplest agrotechnical measure that allows saving water. In Kashkadarya, Samarkand, and Tashkent regions, such areas are less than 10 percent.
One of the reasons is the need for an established mechanism for reimbursing part of the loan to farmers who have introduced water-saving technologies. Therefore, a new funding system was established at the meeting. For clusters and farms wishing to introduce water-saving technologies, a credit line will be created for 5 years, with a 2-year grace period, with an interest payment of 14% per annum. For this purpose, an open electronic platform will be launched, where the process of concluding contracts with both the bank and suppliers will take place online.
Specialists were given instructions on financial and organizational aspects. The need was noted to expand areas with water-saving technologies annually, to study the experience of Türkiye, Spain, and China in this area.
Over the next three years, subsidizing 15 percent of the cost of agricultural machinery and 30 percent of the cost of laser levels will continue. By 2026, laser leveling will be carried out on all sown areas. After 2026, land and water taxes on areas without laser leveling will significantly increase.
The third important task is to reduce water delivery costs.
Currently, 212 UZS are spent on 1 cubic meter of water supplied to clusters and farmers. However, it is 2-3 times more expensive in Bukhara, Kashkadarya and Namangan.
At the same time, 63 percent of water consumption comes from pumping stations. In particular, 7 billion kilowatt-hours of electricity are consumed annually for irrigation. Since 80 percent of water pumps are outdated, energy consumption is high.
The Head of state noted that the correct way to reduce costs and increase efficiency is to modernize pumps and transfer their management to a private partnership.
Several projects are already being implemented in this direction. The task has been set to speed up this work, and with the participation of international financial organizations, 95 pumping stations need to be updated, and a tender for another 118 pumping stations needs to be announced at the beginning of next year.
At the same time, foreign companies have initiated an initiative to take over 268 pumps.
It was noted that thanks to these measures, pump power costs can be reduced by 300 million kilowatt-hours next year and by 1.5 billion kilowatt-hours over the next three years.
The Ministry of Water Resources and international financial organizations have been instructed to develop a three-year program to modernize pumps. Instructions were given for implementing modern management in the field and maintaining water records.
At the meeting, reports were heard from the Minister of Water Resources, hokims, and other leaders.