Adaptive water governance in Central Asia: Un-puzzling the concept

Bota Sharipova a,b* , Nataliya Chemayeva c

a Kazakh-German University, 111 Pushkin Str., Almaty, 050010, Kazakhstan
b Potsdam Institute for Climate Research, Telegrafenberg, 14473 Potsdam, Germany
c Scientific-Information Center, Interstate Sustainable Development Commission, International Fund for Saving the Aral Sea (SIC ICSD IFAS), Turkmenistan Bitarap str. 15, Ashgabat, 744000, Turkmenistan

Corresponding author email:

Research article

Kyrgyzstan Toktogul Dam


This article aims to introduce different views regarding the concept of adaptive capacity in water governance and unpack it in the Central Asian context, specifically. The desk study research built on the recommendations provided by the academia, policy papers and by experts on enhancing adaptive water governance. The juxtaposition of the three sets of recommendations demonstrates that the further strengthening of IWRM, as well as experimental approach to resource management, improved access to climate knowledge and disaster risk reduction mechanisms can consolidate the adaptive capacities
of Central Asian water governance systems. The research was limited by the specific set of selected opinions and should be expanded in the future. As a practical outcome, the analysis aimed to provide the decision-makers in Central Asian states with better science-based avenues to planning adaptation measures ensuite the water sector. Thus, the study can be considered a stepping stone in the discussion on the adaptive capacities of water governance in the Central Asian region.

Available in English

Download the article (eng)

For citation: Sharipova, B., Chemayeva, N. (2022). Adaptive water governance in Central Asia : Un-puzzling the concept. Central Asian Journal of Water Research, 8(2), 1–18.


Abdullaev, I. & Mollinga, P.P. (2010).  The socio-technical aspects of water management: emerging      trends at grassroots level in Uzbekistan. Water, 2(1), 85-100

Abdullaev, I. & Rakhmatullaev, S. (2014).  Data management for integrated water resources management in Central Asia (available at:

Adelphi & CAREC (2017).  Rethinking Water in Central Asia: the costs of inaction and benefits of water cooperation (available at: Water in Central Asia – adelphi carec ENG.pdf)

Adger, W.N., Arnell, N.W. & Tompkins, E.J. (2005).  Successful adaptations to climate change across scales.  Global Environmental Change, 15, 77-86

AGWA (2020).  Watering the NDCs: national climate planning for 2020 and beyond (available at:

Agyenim, J.B. & Gupta, J. (2012).  IWRM and developing countries: Implementation challenges in Ghana.  Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C47, 46-57

Akamani, K. (2016).  Adaptive water governance: Integrating the human dimensions into water resource governance.  Journal of Contemporary Water Research & Education158(1), 2-18

Alaerts, G. & Kaspersma, J. (2009).  Progress and challenges in knowledge and capacity development.  In Blokland, M., Alaerts, G., Kaspersma J. & Hare, M. (eds.) Capacity Development for Improved Water Management.  Delft: UNESCO-IHE 

Amponin, J.A. & Evans, J.W. (2016).  ADB Sustainable Development Working Paper Series No. 44: Assessing the Intended Nationally Determined Contributions of ADB Developing Members.  Mandaluyong City, Philippines

Barandun, M., Fiddes, J., Scherler, M., Mathys, T., Saks, T., Petrakov, D. & Hoelzle, M. (2020).  The state and future of the cryosphere in Central Asia.  Water Security11, 100072

Bernauer, T. & Siegfried, T. (2012).  Climate change and international water conflict in Central Asia.  Journal of Peace Research49(1), 227-239

Biswas, A. (2008).  Integrated water resources management: is it working?  International Journal of Water Resources Development, 24(1), 5-22

Briscoe, J. & Ferranti, D.D. (1988).  Water for rural communities: helping people help themselves.  World Bank

Chaffin, B.C., Garmestani, A.S., Gosnell, H. & Craig, R.K. (2016).  Institutional networks and adaptive water governance in the Klamath River Basin, USA.  Environmental Science & Policy57, 112-121

Christmann, S. et al. (2009).  Food security and climate change in Central Asia and the Caucasus. ICARDA

Dukhovny, V.A., Sokolov, V.I. & Ziganshina, D.R. (2013).  Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia, as a way of survival in conditions of water scarcity.  Quaternary International, 311, 181-188 (available at:

Dukhovny, V.А. & Sokolov, V.I. (2005).  Integrated water resources management. In Experience, and Lessons Learned from Central Asia-towards the 4th World Water Forum, Tashkent: Interstate Commission for Water Coordination in the Aral Sea Basin

FAO (2018).  Policy analysis of nationally determined contributions (NDC) in Europe and Central Asia.  Budapest, 84 pp.  License: CC BY-NC-SA 3.0 IGO

Funke, N., Oelofse, S.H.H., Hattingh, J., Ashton, P.J. & Turton, A.R. (2007).  IWRM in developing countries: Lessons from the Mhlatuze Catchment in South Africa.  Physics and Chemistry of the Earth, Parts A/B/C32(15-18), 1237-1245

Gain, A.K., Rouillard, J.J. & Benson, D. (2013).  Can integrated water resources management increase adaptive capacity to climate change adaptation?  A critical review

Garande, T. & Dagg, S. (2005).  Public participation and effective water governance at the local level: a case study from a small under-developed area in Chile.  Environment, Development and Sustainability7(4), 417-431

Gerlitz, L., Vorogushyn, S. & Gafurov, A. (2020).  Climate informed seasonal forecast of water availability in Central Asia: State-of-the-art and decision making context.  Water Security, 10, 100061

Gupta, J., Pahl-Wostl, C. & Zondervan, R. (2013).  ‘Glocal’ water governance: a multi-level challenge in the anthropocene.  Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability5(6), 573-580

Halbe, J., Pahl-Wostl, C., Sendzimir, J. & Adamowski, J. (2013).  Towards adaptive and integrated management paradigms to meet the challenges of water governance.  Water Science and Technology67(11), 2651-2660

Herrfahrdt-Pähle, E. (2013).  Integrated and adaptive governance of water resources: the case of South Africa.  Regional Environmental Change13(3), 551-561

Hill, M. (2012).  Addressing water governance challenges in the Anthropocene in Climate change and water governance: Adaptive capacity in Chile and Switzerland (Vol. 54). Springer Science & Business Media

Hill, M. (2012).  Climate change and water governance: Adaptive capacity in Chile and Switzerland (Vol. 54).  Springer Science & Business Media

Hoelzle, M., Azisov, E., Barandun, M., Huss, M., Farinotti, D., Gafurov, A., … & Zemp, M. (2017).  Re-establishing glacier monitoring in Kyrgyzstan and Uzbekistan, Central Asia.  Geoscientific Instrumentation, Methods and Data Systems6(2), 397-418

Horlemann, L. & Dombrowsky, I. (2012).  Institutionalising IWRM in developing and transition countries: the case of Mongolia.  Environmental Earth Sciences65(5), 1547-1559

Hurlbert, M., & Gupta, J. (2016). Adaptive governance, uncertainty, and risk: policy framing and responses to climate change, drought, and flood. Risk Analysis, 36(2), 339-356.

Observer Research Foundation, ORF (2020). How to prepare for unpredictable climate events to ensure water sustainability, December 23, 2020 (available at: 

Huitema, D., Mostert, E., Egas, W., Moellenkamp, S., Pahl-Wostl, C. & Yalcin, R. (2009).  Adaptive water governance: assessing the institutional prescriptions of adaptive (co-) management from a governance perspective and defining a research agenda.  Ecology and society14(1)

IPCC (2014).  Climate Change 2014 (available at:

Janssen, M.A. & Ostrom, E. (2006).  Empirically based, agent-based models.  Ecology and society11(2)

Janssen, M.A. & Ostrom, E. (2006).  Resilience, vulnerability, and adaptation: A cross-cutting theme of the International Human Dimensions Programme on Global Environmental Change

Jiang, L., Bao, A., Guo, H. & Ndayisaba, F. (2017).  Vegetation dynamics and responses to climate change and human activities in Central Asia.  Science of the Total Environment599, 967-980

Krysanova, V., Dickens, C., Timmerman, J., Varela-Ortega, C., Schlüter, M., Roest, K., … & Kabat, P. (2010).  Cross-comparison of climate change adaptation strategies across large river basins in Europe, Africa and Asia.  Water Resources Management, 24(14), 4121-4160

Lemos, M.C. (2015).  Usable climate knowledge for adaptive and co-managed water governance.  Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability12, 48-52

Li, Z., Chen, Y., Li, W., Deng, H. & Fang, G. (2015).  Potential impacts of climate change on vegetation dynamics in Central Asia.  Journal of Geophysical Research: Atmospheres120(24), 12345-12356

Lioubimtseva, E. & Henebry, G.M. (2009).  Climate and environmental change in arid Central Asia: Impacts, vulnerability, and adaptations.  Journal of Arid Environments73(11), 963-977

Lynn, J. (2020, November 25).  Climate change webinar with IPCC experts [Webinar]. The Regional Environmental Centre for Central Asia (available at: en/main/news/vebinary-po-nauchnym-aspektam-izmeneniya-klimata-s-uchastiem-ekspertov-mgeik/) 

Mannig, B., Müller, M., Starke, E., Merkenschlager, C., Mao, W., Zhi, X., … & Paeth, H. (2013).  Dynamical downscaling of climate change in Central Asia.  Global and planetary change110, 26-39

McSweeney, C., New, M., Lizcano, G. & Lu, X. (2010).  The UNDP Climate Change Country Profiles: Improving the accessibility of observed and projected climate information for studies of climate change in developing countries.  Bulletin of the American Meteorological society91(2), 157-166

Menga, F. (2013).  Power and Dams in Central Asia (available at:

Moss, R.H., Meehl, G.A., Lemos, M.C., Smith, J.B., Arnold, J.R., Arnott, J.C., … & Wilbanks, T.J. (2013).  Hell and high water: practice-relevant adaptation science.  Science342(6159), 696-698

Pahl-Wostl, C., Lebel, L., Knieper, C. & Nikitina, E. (2012).  From applying panaceas to mastering complexity: toward adaptive water governance in river basins.  Environmental Science & Policy23, 24-34

Parry, J.-E. & Terton, A. (2016).  How are vulnerable countries adapting to climate change?  The International Institute for Sustainable Development, IISD(available at:

Reyer, C.P., Otto, I.M., Adams, S., Albrecht, T., Baarsch, F., Cartsburg, M., … & Stagl, J. (2017).  Climate change impacts in Central Asia and their implications for development.  Regional Environmental Change17(6), 1639-1650

Schlüter, M., Khasankhanova, G., Talskikh, V., Taryannikova, R., Agaltseva, N., Joldasova, I., … & Abdullayev, U. (2013).  Enhancing resilience to water flow uncertainty by integrating environmental flows into water management in the Amudarya River, Central Asia.  Global and planetary change110, 114-129

Sehring, J. (2009).  Path Dependencies and Institutional Bricolage in Post-Soviet Water Governance.  Water alternatives2(1)

Sehring, J., Ziganshina, D.R., Krasznai, M. & Stoffelen, T. (2019).  International actors and initiatives for sustainable water management.  In The Aral Sea Basin (pp. 155-175). Routledge

Sehring, J. (2020).  Unequal distribution: Academic knowledge production on water governance in Central Asia.  Water Security9, 100057

Sehring, J., Abdulloyev, A., Chemayeva, N., Ismailov, B., Osmonova, N. & Sharipova, B. (2021).  Reforming legal frameworks for water management in Central Asia.  In Elgar Encyclopedia of Environmental Law (pp. 354-366).  Edward Elgar Publishing Limited

Siegfried, T., Bernauer, T., Guiennet, R., Sellars, S., Robertson, A.W., Mankin, J., … & Yakovlev, A. (2012).  Will climate change exacerbate water stress in Central Asia?  Climatic Change112(3), 881-899

Sommer, R., Glazirina, M., Yuldashev, T., Otarov, A., Ibraeva, M., Martynova, L., … & De Pauw, E. (2013).  Impact of climate change on wheat productivity in Central Asia.  Agriculture, Ecosystems & Environment178, 78-99

Sorg, A., Bolch, T., Stoffel, M., Solomina, O. & Beniston, M. (2012).  Climate change impacts on glaciers and runoff in Tien Shan (Central Asia).  Nature Climate Change2(10), 725-731

Timboe, I., Pharr, K. & Matthews, J.H. (2020).  Watering the NDCs: National Climate Planning for 2020 – How water-aware climate policies can strengthen climate change mitigation & adaptation goals.  Corvallis, Oregon: Alliance for Global Water Adaptation, AGWA (available at:

Uhlendahl, T., Salian, P., Casarotto, C. & Doetsch, J. (2011).  Good water governance and IWRM in Zambia: challenges and chances.  Water Policy13(6), 845-862

Virji, H., Padgham, J. & Seipt, C. (2012).  Capacity building to support knowledge systems for resilient development – approaches, actions, and needs.  Current Opinion in Environmental Sustainability4(1), 115-121

Wegerich, K. (2008).  Blueprints for water user associations’ accountability versus local reality: evidence from South Kazakhstan.  Water International33(1), 43-54

Wegerich, K., Kazbekov, J., Lautze, J., Platonov, A. & Yakubov, M. (2012).  From monocentric ideal to polycentric pragmatism in the Syr Darya: searching for second best approaches. International Journal of Sustainable Society4(1-2), 113-130

Woodhouse, P. & Muller, M. (2017).  Water governance – An historical perspective on current debates.  World Development, 92, 225-241

World Bank (1996).  The World Bank Participation Sourcebook.  Washington DC, 156-164

Zhang, M., Chen, Y., Shen, Y. & Li, B. (2019).  Tracking climate change in Central Asia through temperature and precipitation extremes.  Journal of Geographical Sciences29(1), 3-28

Zinzani, A. (2015).  Irrigation management transfer and WUAs’ dynamics: evidence from the South-Kazakhstan Province.  Environmental Earth Sciences73(2), 765-777

Zinzani, A. (2015).  The Logics of Water Policies in Central Asia (Vol. 23).  LIT Verlag Münster

Zinzani, A. (2016).  Hydraulic bureaucracies and irrigation management transfer in Uzbekistan: The case of Samarkand Province.  International Journal of Water Resources Development32(2), 232-246.

adaptive capacity, Adaptive water governance, Central Asia, climate change

Leave a Reply

Publication Alerts: