INSIDE Chico State
0 September 23, 1999
Volume 30 Number 3
  A publication for the faculty, staff, administrators, and friends of California State University, Chico
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Central Asian Water Experts Visit Chico

At the edge of a Sacramento slough, a Nature Conservancy educator tells visitors from Central Asia about the Nature Conservancy's acquisition and restoration projects. (photo KM)
At the edge of a Sacramento slough, a Nature Conservancy educator tells visitors from Central Asia about the Nature Conservancy's acquisition and restoration projects. (photo KM)
 

Sergey Russ, a researcher with the Institute of Strategic Studies of Uzbekistan, explained that water management issues are crucial to the Central Asian countries of Tadjikistan, Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan. Unless these countries develop viable negotiated settlements for water usage, water issues could easily become "the reason for political clashes in the near future," according to Russ.

Russ is one of twenty-three policy-makers, district level irrigation managers, and water user association presidents who participated in an intensive program in "Irrigation Management Transfer" hosted by CSU, Chico. Because California and Central Asia have similar geography, climate, and water management issues, Russ expects to find California's problems and solutions applicable to his region. For example, the group visited the Salinas valley to learn how Americans approach soil salinity problems similar to those in Central Asia.

The countries of Central Asia depend on shared rivers and the Aral Sea for water. The Aral Sea is drying up at a rate of 1.5 cubic kilometer per year. The reasons for this have been the focus of international study. When asked why the sea is drying up, the visitors engaged in a lively untranslated discussion of their water problems, finally saying that it was due to misuse of irrigation technology. According to Russ, the region also faces water pollution problems due to pesticide and herbicide contamination.

All of these problems may have technical solutions, but the solutions will only occur if the countries develop agreements around water issues. Russ referred to this political necessity as "the disease of independence." In the past, water allocation and management were decided by the USSR's central government. Now the individual countries are learning new ways to negotiate with each other to find equitable ways to manage water resources.

Graduate and International Programs sponsored the program under a contract with the Academy for Educational Development, a Washington, D.C.-based international training and development firm.  -- BA

 

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