Water, infrastructure and climate change
Uzbekistan is the largest water consumer in the Amudarya and Syrdarya Basins with 4.3 mln ha of irrigated land (out of 7.9 mln ha in Central Asia) and more than 35 mln population (out of 75 mln in Central Asia), consumes over 50% of the total water resources in the region.
Agriculture is the largest consumer of the water resources in Uzbekistan (about 90% of fresh water) representing 30% of its GDP and employing 25% of the labor force.
Deteriorated and poorly maintained infrastructure, limited financial investments, insufficient technical and managerial capacities, weak institutions and inadequate policies are the main factors leading to insufficient service delivery in the safe drinking water and sanitation sub-sector.
Rising water deficits negatively affect the economy, employment and poverty levels. Awareness is increasing that water management and an effective water sector reform needs to be more resilient to climate change, which means: building capacities to better anticipate risks, absorb shocks, and transform development pathways to ensure water and food security in the longer term.
However, implementation of the ambitious water sector reform, along the principles of IWRM and the basin approach, is fragmented due to weak local capacities, limited availability and sharing of data across sectors, actors and administrative boundaries, limited transparency of operations and the continued focus on irrigation infrastructure development. Water is not adequately valued as an economic good, limiting the scope for market driven changes in water management and incentives for the efficient use of water. Moreover, water loss related to outdated infrastructure and lack of finance is a serious problem. Traditionally, domestic water supply systems have relied to a large degree on groundwater.
Switzerland has been supporting the water sector of Uzbekistan since 2001. The WICC Programme has been strengthening water resources management at national, basin and canal system as well as on-farm level, to increase water and food security and to reduce water-related disaster risks in order to improve living and health conditions of Uzbek population by ensuring equal and sustainable access to water for food and water for life.
National reforms and regional cooperation
Switzerland is actively involved in a policy dialogue with the Uzbek government on reforms in the water sector, aiming at strengthening the legal framework for IWRM-based water sector reforms, and implementation of its key elements (data management, institutional strengthening, and rational water use promotion).
Switzerland also promotes a regional approach combining cross-border hydro-diplomacy with actions at national and local levels to promote joint and equitable management of river basins to tackle water, energy and food-related challenges in Central Asia by building a sense of common responsibility. The application of IWRM principles are applied here as well.
Infrastructure, urban and rural drinking water supply and sanitation
Switzerland has been providing sustained access to safe drinking water and sanitation services and improves hygiene behavior for a healthier population. SECO has a long record of operations in water supply and sanitation projects in Uzbekistan and has closely worked together in the past 20 years with the Uzbek partners at both national and local levels, particularly with the water utilities in the specific regions. The rural water supply model that was developed and demonstrated in the Fergana Valley now is being scaled up horizontally by the government of Uzbekistan within the state programmes. Ongoing urban water supply projects aim to enhance sustainable access to safe drinking water and improved sanitation services.
Switzerland has supported water stakeholders and governments to promote integrated and equitable water management during the last two decades at all levels. SDC is making efforts through its water programme on the introduction of IWRM principles, including the development of the comprehensive strategic and regulatory framework, promoting water-saving technologies, digitalization of the water sector. In rural areas, local communities are being encouraged to set up water users associations – legal entities which are in charge of operating and maintaining the water supply systems.
Swiss achievements in the water sector
The Swiss Cooperation supported the water sector reform focusing on the adoption of two key strategic frameworks: the Water Sector Development Concept for 2020-2030, along with a road map for its implementation in 2020-2022; and the Water Resources Management and Irrigation Sector Development Strategy 2021-2023, aimed at developing an efficient and sustainable water sector, based on IWRM principles, to achieve food and water security through protection and rational use of water. For better data management, the Information Analytical Resource Centre was established within the Ministry of Water Resources.