Water User Associations Transform Canal Management in Central Asia

IWMI with its regional partner, the Scientific Information Centre of the Interstate Commission for Water Coordination introduced new institutional structures with user participation to improve agricultural water management in Central Asia (see MTP Project 4, MTP 2004-2008). This involved developing smaller user groups from hydrographically identified areas, amalgamating them into Water User Associations (WUAs) and involving these in main canal governance, a process that is unique for the ex-Soviet countries. These proposed institutional reforms were adopted by the governments of Tajikistan, Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, and examples of uptake include:

  • Establishment of the first ever user-involved “Joint Management Board” for the Aravan Akbura Canal (Kyrgyzstan) in February 2006.
  • Registration of a Union of Canal Water Users for the Khoja-Bakirgan Canal (Tajikistan) in November 2006.
  • Federation of the WUAs along the South Fergana Canal (Uzbekistan) in preparation for participation in canal governance.


The success of these new institutions has been acknowledged by local and regional print and broadcast media including Pravda Vostoka (Rus); Osh Janirigi (Voice of Osh) and an Osh TV feature on Water as a Precious Resource; and Central Asia websites including Press-Uz (English, Uzbeki, Russsian languages).

Importantly, the reforms have proven to be an effective mechanism for canal users to influence water management planning, and performance indicators at each level show positive results. The success of these initiatives has led to requests from all three participating countries to introduce these institutions in adjoining areas.