Acta Geographica Sinica ›› 2017, Vol. 72 ›› Issue (1): 79-93.doi: 10.11821/dlxb201701007

• Soil and Surface Processes • Previous Articles     Next Articles

A review of water issues research in Central Asia

Shengtian YANG1,3(), Xinyi YU2, Jianli DING3(), Fei ZHANG3, Fei WANG3, Yugang MA3   

  1. 1. College of Water Sciences, Beijing Key Laboratory for Remote Sensing of Environment and Digital Cities, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    2. School of Geography, Beijing Normal University, Beijing 100875, China
    3. Key Laboratory of Oasis Ecology, College of Resources and Environment Science, Xinjiang University, Urumqi 830046, China
  • Received:2016-07-15 Revised:2016-11-08 Online:2017-01-20 Published:2017-01-20
  • Supported by:
    National Natural Science Foundation of China, No.U1603241, No.U1303381, No. 41261090;National Key Research and Development Program of China, No.2016YFC0402403, No.2016YFC 0402409


Central Asia, which is an arid inland area, has the most severe water-resource problems in the world. This paper reviews the literature on water issues in Central Asia published in the last 15 years (i.e., since 2000), covering the quantity of literature, the research institutes involved, the research approaches, and the major issues in the subject. The following conclusions can be reached based on the literature: (1) Water issues in Central Asia are an important area of geographical research. Many studies from China, Germany, the USA, and other countries have focused on the responses of water cycling processes to climate change, and on the hydrological environment of the catchment. In addition, Chinese researchers have tended to focus their studies on trans-boundary river management. (2) Temperature rise and precipitation increase are the fundamental features of climate change in Central Asia. Terrestrial water storage and river runoff have an obvious decrease as a result of temperature rise. (3) Soil salinization, land degradation and water pollution have been worsened by irrational utilization of water resources, and all of these have increased the pressures on the environment of the catchment. (4) Complicated geopolitics makes it difficult for the international community to manage the trans-boundary rivers in Central Asia. The water utilization situation in Central Asian countries is getting worse, which causes a series of ecological problems and even endangers the stability of social and economic development. Important future directions for studies on water issues in Central Asia include the relationships between population, resources and environment; the interaction mechanism of hydrology, methodological, social and political aspects; as well as the collection of basic hydrological data.

Key words: Central Asia, hydrological cycle, water resources, catchment environment, trans-boundary river