Water in Kazakhstan’s North Aral Sea Rises by Over a Billion Cubic Meters

The Kokaral Dam; image: TCA

On June 24, the Kazakh Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation announced that since the beginning of the year, 1.1 billion cubic meters of water have flowed into the North Aral Sea in Kazakhstan, raising the volume to 21.4 billion cubic meters.

The North Aral Sea is the portion of the former Aral Sea fed by the Syr Darya River. It split from the South Aral Sea in 1987–‘88 when water levels dropped as a result of water being diverted from the river for agricultural use.

At the recent 86th meeting of the Interstate Coordination Water Commission, which includes Kazakhstan, Kyrgyzstan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, and Uzbekistan, it was agreed that during this year’s irrigation season, 997 million cubic meters of water would be fed into the North Aral Sea at a rate of at least 30 cubic meters per second. Now, 50 cubic meters of water per second enters the sea, compared to just six cubic meters per second last year.

In the 1990s, a dam was constructed to prevent the inflow of water from the North to the South Aral. Rebuilt in 2005, the Kok-Aral Dam enabled water levels to rise in the North Aral Sea.

“From the moment the dam was put into operation until today, 46.6 billion cubic meters of water have flowed from the Syr Darya River into the North Aral Sea,” said Moldir Abdualieva, official representative of the Kazakh Ministry of Water Resources and Irrigation. “And over the past 7 years, 13.3 billion cubic meters of water have entered the sea. In recent years, the volume of water in the North Aral had been declining, but since the beginning of 2024 it has begun to grow again and today has reached 21.4 billion cubic meters.”

According to the ministry, 75% of the flow of the Syr Darya River comes from Kyrgyzstan, 20% from Uzbekistan, and 5% from Kazakhstan.