How Kazakhstan can avoid the water crisis, the expert said

By 2050, drought and floods in Central Asia could lead to a 30 percent decrease in yields. This was stated by the President of Kazakhstan, speaking at a meeting of the Council of Heads of State of the International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea, in September this year. To prevent a water crisis in the country, it is planned to build new reservoirs and reconstruct existing ones, and a new water code is also being developed. Read more about the challenges and innovations in the water industry of Kazakhstan in the material .
«There should be no shortage of water»
In order to avoid water shortages, Kazakhstan plans to build 20 new and reconstruct at least 15 existing reservoirs, modernize and digitize more than 3.5 thousand kilometers of canals. This will make it possible to additionally provide Kazakhstan with water by 2027.

Daniyar Zhumabekov, President of the Association of Hydrogeologists, believes that there should be no shortage of water, since there is a lot of groundwater in the country.
«If there is a problem with transboundary rivers, you can use groundwater (it is safe, regardless of neighboring countries), introduce a water conservation policy, and build enough hydraulic structures», the expert says.
According to official data, 45 percent of Kazakhstan's groundwater reserves are located in the southern regions, the remaining 55 are distributed throughout the country. Therefore, in some regions there are problems with water.
«It is simply necessary to solve the issue of uniform distribution of water throughout the country. To do this, the Association of Hydrogeologists of Kazakhstan proposed to develop and implement a project for the construction of a water pipeline network that will be able to cover the shortage of drinking water in certain regions», the expert says.

Development of the Water Code

According to the expert, a number of changes should be made to the new water code of Kazakhstan. The old version of it was created in 2003 and during this time there was a need for many transformations in the country.

For example, Daniyar Zhumabekov believes that it is necessary to review the system for issuing permits for water use, to introduce the installation by the well owner of special control and measuring devices with a GSM modem, with the transfer of information to the database of the Hydrogeological Service.

Also, in his opinion, it is necessary to revise the standards for drilling hydrogeological wells for water. Since production wells are currently being drilled in Kazakhstan for water lifting equipment of Russian and Belarusian production, the diameter of which is much larger than European, American, Japanese, and Chinese manufacturers.
«At the same time, we cannot do without a new tariff policy that is adequate to current realities. The outdated infrastructure is functioning at the limit of its capabilities. Creating a new one is the task of the market. Excess water consumption will be equal to the increased tariff. In short, it is necessary to save water in every possible way. At the same time, the "black market" of water must be completely eradicated. Water is a limited resource, its availability is the key to the survival of farmers», Kassym–Jomart Tokayev said.
Therefore, violations in this area will be severely suppressed and punished to the fullest extent of the law. Water resources are no less important for our country than oil, gas or metals, he stressed.
«A simple example is to provide water to a village of three thousand people, we need about 40 m3 per hour. In order to obtain these indicators, it is necessary to drill a well with an operational column with a diameter of 219 mm and install a Belarusian ECV pump -8-40-100 which has a volume of 200 mm. At cost, this is much higher than the option we have proposed for drilling water wells. It is necessary to review the norms and standards that are referred to when designing hydrogeological wells», the expert says.
In addition, it is necessary to introduce a moratorium on the issuance of licenses for exploration for the extraction of solid minerals in the territory of any type of groundwater deposits, and it is also necessary to terminate lease agreements for all hydraulic structures in Kazakhstan," Daniyar Zhumabekov believes.

The expert also draws attention to the need to introduce a moratorium on the issuance of licenses for exploration for the extraction of solid minerals and prohibit the construction of groundwater deposits on the territory.

The President of the Association of Hydrogeologists touched upon the topic of taxes in the water sector.
«I think it would be possible to exempt companies engaged in drilling water wells and their research from VAT. There are a maximum of 200 in the country. Nationwide, taxes from these companies are a small amount, but they can help the industry develop and get back on its feet».
The expert also draws attention to the deterioration of equipment in the country.
«99 percent of drilling equipment in the country is in a very poor condition, almost all companies work on installations from the 1980s, which has a very negative impact on the timing. It is necessary to subsidize the purchase of new drilling equipment for drilling hydrogeological wells», the expert says.
In his opinion, the country also needs to create a digitized database of hydrogeological wells, where reports on drilled wells would be posted.

How to provide the entire population with drinking water

Earlier, Prime Minister of Kazakhstan Alikhan Smailov stated that by the end of 2025, 100 percent of the population of Kazakhstan should be provided with clean drinking water. According to him, more than 600 thousand Kazakhstanis have problems with access to drinking water. Daniyar Zhumabekov believes that to solve this issue, it is necessary to build pipelines and drill wells.
«I had experience building and owning a private water intake. We bought a plot in the private sector in the Almaty region, drilled a well, built a water supply network, equipped a water intake, connected the houses of the new array to clean drinking water. Naturally, it is not free, the cost of connecting one house was two hundred thousand tenge, 500 tenge was paid monthly for one tenant. As a result, the state did not spend a dime, the population received high-quality drinking water for a small amount, five jobs were created», says Daniyar Zhumabekov.
According to the expert, such work should be introduced legislatively on the terms of public-private partnership. After all, the state will pay off the contractor within five years, before that the contractor is responsible for the operation.

In his opinion, the increase in water tariffs is a necessary measure. Since the population in the country uses it irrationally.

Personnel and infrastructure

The development of any industry depends on personnel. There are not enough of them in the water sector of Kazakhstan. Moreover, specialties related to the water sector are uncompetitive. Specialists have low salaries and conditions that do not attract young people, says Daniyar Zhumabekov.
«There was a long period when the specialty "hydrogeologist" was abolished, if I'm not mistaken, from 2007 to 2017, and this had a strong impact on the industry. The assistants of the masters of the drilling rigs were practically not trained, only at the Semey Geological Exploration College. We faced a personnel problem, no one agreed to drill wells, and those who went to work, to put it mildly, did not meet the basic requirements. Candace, who arrived from Uzbekistan and Kyrgyzstan, helped out. Over the past two years, it has become impossible to keep people at all, since it was necessary to increase wages, and they paid for wells in the same way as in 2015», the expert notes.
Zhumabekov believes that it is necessary to increase the prestige of this profession, and this can only be done by increasing wages. In turn, a fair distribution of government orders is necessary to increase payment.
«We all know from scientific research organizations dealing with hydrogeology that there are Research Institutes of Hydrogeology and Geoecology named after U.M. Akhmedsafin. One organization cannot lead to scientific and technological progress. In my opinion, it is necessary to increase the number of scientific organizations, increase the allocation of grants for research and scientific developments of an applied nature in this area», the expert said.
According to the expert, one of the key tasks in the country now is the restoration of infrastructure in the water sector.
«The infrastructure is worn out, but everything can be restored. I do not agree with the opinion that we are in for a drought. If you take a businesslike approach to this issue, then you can bring all hydraulic structures into line within 5-7 years. As a specialist with 20 years of experience, I have often come across an unworthy attitude to hydrogeology. I often encountered incorrect, unprofessional well drilling projects, due to the fact that the general contractor could pay the drilling company an amount three times less than the estimated cost. And companies out of desperation agreed to such conditions, and all this was reflected in the quality of work», the expert concluded.