Water footprint of cotton, wheat and rice production in Central Asia

Maite Martinez-Aldaya, G. Munoz, Arjen Ysbert Hoekstra

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The hydrology of the Aral Sea Basin during the past few decades has been largely determined by the decision to develop irrigated agriculture on a large scale to produce cotton for export in the 1960s. The irrigated area has grown to 8 million hectares, using practically the entire available flow of the two main rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. Almost two decades after the disintegration of the Soviet Union, the five states of the Aral Sea Basin face the challenge of restoring a sustainable equilibrium while offering development opportunities for an increasing population. Sustainable water management is thus an imperative that will require coordinated political action of all the states involved. The Soviet Union established its cotton-producing areas in Uzbekistan, Turkmenistan, Tajikistan, and Kyrgyzstan. Today, while cotton remains relatively important, cereal production to reduce imports has become a priority in all four nations. The cotton crop area has decreased over the past ten years, while that of winter wheat – the main grain crop – has doubled. At 39 per cent of the total (blue and green) water consumption in agriculture, wheat is the largest water-consuming crop in the five basin states, followed by cotton at 33 per cent. The present study analyses the water footprint of Central Asian cotton (Gossypium hirsutum L.), wheat (Triticum aestivum L.) and rice (Oryza sativa L.) production, differentiating between the green and blue components, in order to know how the scarce water resources in the region are apparently allocated.
Original languageUndefined
Place of PublicationDelft, the Netherlands
PublisherUnesco-IHE Institute for Water Education
Number of pages38
Publication statusPublished - 2010

Publication series

NameValue of water research report 41
PublisherUNESCO-IHE Institute for Water Education


  • METIS-265611
  • IR-77193

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