Climatic Change

, Volume 112, Issue 3–4, pp 881–899 | Cite as

Will climate change exacerbate water stress in Central Asia?

  • Tobias SiegfriedEmail author
  • Thomas Bernauer
  • Renaud Guiennet
  • Scott Sellars
  • Andrew W. Robertson
  • Justin Mankin
  • Peter Bauer-Gottwein
  • Andrey Yakovlev


Millions of people in the geopolitically important region of Central Asia depend on water from snow- and glacier-melt driven international rivers, most of all the Syr Darya and Amu Darya. The riparian countries of these rivers have experienced recurring water allocation conflicts ever since the Soviet Union collapsed. Will climate change exacerbate water stress and thus conflicts? We have developed a coupled climate, land-ice and rainfall-runoff model for the Syr Darya to quantify impacts and show that climatic changes are likely to have consequences on runoff seasonality due to earlier snow-melt. This will increase water stress in unregulated catchments because less water will be available for irrigation in the summer months. Threats from geohazards, above all glacier lake outbursts, are likely to increase as well. The area at highest risk is the densely populated, agriculturally productive, and politically unstable Fergana Valley. Targeted infrastructural developments will be required in the region. If the current mismanagement of water and energy resources can be replaced with more effective resource allocation mechanisms through the strengthening of transboundary institutions, Central Asia will be able to successfully address these future climate-related challenges.


Climate Sensitivity Shuttle Radar Topography Mission Tropical Rainfall Measuring Mission Global Circulation Model Irrigation Water Demand 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.



Support from the CORC-ARCHES program at the Lamont-Doherty Earth Observatory, the Swiss Network for International Studies (SNIS) and the International Research School of Water Resources (FIVA) in Copenhagen is acknowledged. We would specifically like to thank Peter Schlosser for facilitating CORC-ARCHES funding. Andrew W. Robertson’s work was supported by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration through a Cooperative Agreement with Columbia University. The Open Society Institute is acknowledged for providing partial funding of a research trip to Central Asia. We thank DHI and Roar Askær Jensen for providing free access to the MIKE software package. We acknowledge the modeling groups, the Program for Climate Model Diagnosis and Intercomparison (PCMDI) and the WCRP’s Working Group on Coupled Modeling (WGCM) for their roles in making available the WCRP CMIP3 multi-model dataset. Support of this dataset is provided by the Office of Science, U.S. Department of Energy.

Supplementary material

10584_2011_253_MOESM1_ESM.pdf (148 kb)
(PDF 147 KB)


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Copyright information

© Springer Science+Business Media B.V. 2011

Authors and Affiliations

  • Tobias Siegfried
    • 1
    Email author
  • Thomas Bernauer
    • 2
  • Renaud Guiennet
    • 3
  • Scott Sellars
    • 4
  • Andrew W. Robertson
    • 5
  • Justin Mankin
    • 6
  • Peter Bauer-Gottwein
    • 7
  • Andrey Yakovlev
    • 8
  1. 1.Hydrosolutions GmbHZurichSwitzerland
  2. 2.ETH Zurich, Center for International StudiesZurichSwitzerland
  3. 3.Department of Environmental EngineeringDTULyngbyDenmark
  4. 4.Center for Hydrometeorology and Remote SensingUniversity of CaliforniaIrvineUSA
  5. 5.International Research Institute for Climate and Society (IRI)Columbia UniversityPalisadesUSA
  6. 6.School of Earth SciencesStanford UniversityStanfordUSA
  7. 7.Department of Environmental EngineeringDTULyngbyDenmark
  8. 8.Uzbek Scientific Investigation and Survey Institute (UzGIP)Ministry of Agriculture and Water ResourcesTashkentUzbekistan

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