Large-scale water transfers in the USSR

P. M. Kelly, D. A. Campbell, P. P. Micklin, J. R. Tarrant

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In order to counter water shortages in the agricultural regions along the lower Volga and in Kazakhstan and Central Asia and to alleviate falling water levels in southern seas, the Soviet Union proposes to transfer substantial quantities of water south from its northern Arctic-flowing rivers.

We describe the background to these proposals, the need for greater agricultural production in the Soviet Union, current irrigation practice, and the development of schemes for large-scale water transfers. We discuss the Soviet philosophy of the transformation of nature, the problems encountered in implementing irrigation schemes, and the likely time scale of larger water transfers. The Soviet authorities consider the transfers essential. Even if the efficiency of existing irrigation schemes is improved, demand will surpass supply in many southern agricultural regions within the next 10 to 15 years. Work is to proceed on the first of the second, the Siberian scheme, is unlikely to be taken until any problems encountered in the implementation of the European scheme are assessed.

Finally, we consider the potential impact of the diversions. There will certainly be local ecological and environmental consequences and it is considered that the net impact will, on balance, be adverse. There is also concern that the diversion of water away from higher latitudes may affect the Arctic ice cover and, possibly, global climate.
Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)201-214
Number of pages14
Issue number3
Publication statusPublished - May 1983

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