Information for this review of the status of water supply systems in Tajikistan is taken from Government reports, reports from reputed International organizations working in Tajikistan, supplemented by information collected as part of the work for preparing a river basin management plan. Information has been collected for this report on the current state of water supply and sanitation in the basin with a prepared questionnaire and, working with the RBO Kulyab working group and its sub-RBO Khorog, used for the collection of data on the state of water supply and sanitation facilities from various offices of the relevant organizations within the basin.
Under the Soviet Union, Tajikistan had a good water supply system networks both in rural and urban areas. The majority of the systems are now old and worn out and are in need of repair and rehabilitation. In terms of sustainable access to improved drinking water sources, it is ranked 156 out of 177 countries in the world covered by the UN assessment. With 57.5% access to drinking water, it ranks last among the post-Soviet countries and the CIS.
Although the rehabilitation of the WSS systems has been initiated in some areas, it has addressed only a fraction of the total problem. The situation is very grave in rural areas, where a majority of the old systems are out of service due to lack of repair and maintenance. As per the Government records, over 56% of people have access to safe water in 2000. This compares favorably with the estimates available from a Multiple Cluster Indicator Survey supported by UNICEF in the same year. As per this survey, access to safe water has been estimated at 57% of the total population; the corresponding figures for urban and rural areas being 93% and 43% respectively. This shows that the people in rural areas are definitely at a disadvantageous position compared to those in urban areas.
In the report prepared by Tajikistan for the 3rd Conference on Climate Change, prepared in 2014 it is stated:
“More than 3mln people in Tajikistan do not have regular access to drinking water. They use water from open sources such as springs, wells, ‘aryks’ (ditches), and channels which often do not meet hygiene and sanitary requirements for drinking water. One third of the water supply networks do not function. In many towns the quality of water treatment has declined due to a lack of disinfectants and outdated equipment for cleaning and disinfection of water. Outside Dushanbe city, water is often supplied for just for few hours per day. Around 20% of the population has access to sewage system. These are mainly the residents of towns and urban settlements. The efficiency of wastewater treatment plants is not high (40%). The number of operational breakdowns of the water systems in the cities is high reaching 2.8-3.7 breakdowns per 1 km of water line per year, while the acceptable frequency is 0.2-0.3. Given the worn-out state of water supply networks and high frequency of breakdowns, the losses of water can reach up to 50%.”
In 2017 the World Bank prepared a report on water supply, sanitation and health (WASH) issues in Tajikistan, using specially commissioned surveys and summarizing more recent survey data from other sources. This work confirmed that the improvement to water supply in the period 2000 to 2016 resulted in reducing nationally the proportion of the population relying on basic “surface water” sources from 33% to 15%. Over this period the proportion of the population with access to water within their dwelling remained about constant nationally. Use of public standpipes increased from 8% to 22% in this period.
Figure 37 shows the variation in access to water across the country, using data from 2016. These data show that Khatlon and GBAO regions are among those with lowest provision in the country.
Figure 1 shows some of the main problem areas with provision of drinking water in the country, indicating reasons for inability to access drinking water. This underlines the lack of reliability in many of the sources used to provide community water supplies. It is reported in the World Bank survey that households experience long periods of water supply service interruption with, for example, 18% of households nationally reporting in 2016 that the supply had been interrupted by more than 1 week. These interruptions mostly occur in winter.
Tajikistan has made commitments to meet the UN Sustainable Development Goals by 2030, particularly with regard to water supply and sanitation. Therefore a high priority is given nationally to improving the present situation with regard to water supply and sanitation.
Figure 1: Availability of and Access to Improved Drinking Water (WB, 2017)
Figure 2: Reasons for Inability to Access Drinking Water (WB, 2017)
Some of the regions of Tajikistan have abundant groundwater, suitable for drinking, with more reliable satisfactory water quality than surface water sources. However, not much effort has gone into for its proper development and conservation. Work is needed to understand issues of availability of groundwater, and its potability for direct use for water supply bearing in mind possible contamination sources especially derived from poor sanitation practices.
Standards for drinking water in the Republic of Tajikistan are set by state bodies, i.e. State standards are approved subject to the recommendations of the World Health Organization. The quality of water to be provided for drinking has controls over which components may be present in water and in what quantities. General parameters of drinking water are determined by organoleptic properties, by indicators of bacterial and sanitary-chemical pollution. The maximum permissible concentration (MAC) of a certain amount of a harmful substance is established, which, when daily exposed, does not cause painful changes in the body. The bacteriological indicator of water quality relates mainly to natural waters and is characterized by the presence of organisms in them. The number of these organisms is determined by microbiological studies of samples taken from water bodies by comparison with standard samples.
Water Quality Monitoring
In view of the problems associated with even safe water, monitoring of the water quality becomes critical. The principal agency responsible for monitoring the water quality is the Centers for State Sanitary and Epidemiological Surveillance (CSSES) that has water-testing laboratories at Dushanbe and also at the each of the regions. It is therefore advisable to strengthen and use the capacity of regional CSSES laboratories for carrying out analyzes of physicochemical, microbiological, bacteriological, parasitic and radiation indicators of basin waters.
The map below shows the summary of water quality analysis carried out by SES during the last two years. Data are available only for Khatlon and Sogd Regions. On an average, around 2,000 samples are analyzed in a year. Given the high dependence on unsafe water sources and the worn-out distribution network, the results are not surprising.
Figure 3: Water Quality Distribution amongst Regions
Regular chemical analysis of water focusing on certain parameters such as ammonia, nitrate, nitrite, chloride and sulphide however importance to Fluoride and Arsenic content of water analysis should be given since many nations tend to find out this problem too late. Bangladesh is an example where discovering Arsenic in ground water in the recent past has drawn world attention. Similar is the case with fluoride in water in India. Some years back nobody had thought that Bangladesh and India had these problems.
Sanitation and Hygiene
The situation on sanitation and hygiene in Tajikistan is not well documented. The only available governmental statistics are limited to the coverage of the population by centralized sewage systems. In this respect, large disparities can be observed between urban and rural areas. Moreover, within the urban areas the conditions vary greatly between larger and smaller cities and between central districts and outskirts. As a rule, the sewerage system exists in district centers. The existing statistics also do not reflect the deteriorating state of the urban sewage systems.
A considerable proportion of the population is not covered by centralized sewage systems and hence people use individual sanitation facilities such as pit latrines. Systematic data on the coverage and state of these facilities are lacking except from independent surveys, carried out by international organizations and NGO’s.
As per the Multiple Indicator Cluster Survey supported by UNICEF in 2000, 97% of households in urban and 88% in rural use latrines. Barring Dushanbe, where a majority of the population is either connected to a water borne sewer or to a septic tank, over three-fourths of households in other Oblasts use only pit latrines which are often unhygienic. In rural areas almost cent percent of the households use this type of latrine. The World Bank report in 2017 identified significant improvement by 2016, with open defecation largely eliminated in the country. Nationally, systems used were reported to be:
Flush to piped sewer connection – 20% of households (80% of these connections in Dushanbe);
Flush to pit latrine in 34% of households; and
Use of pit latrine with slab 44%
This survey notes that Khatlon and GBAO have the highest proportion of households without improved sanitation facilities in the country.
Also, using the latrines barefoot and the improper handling of filled-in pits expose family members, particularly children, to worm infestation. Although no data is available on this, a high degree of malnutrition among children can be attributed to this unhygienic practice. There is also a lack of understanding of the causes of the spread of diseases resulted by unhygienic personal and domestic practices and unsanitary environment.
Sanitation systems have potential impact of water quality and quantity in the river and require investments to safeguard water quality within the basin. In rural Tajikistan, pit latrines need to be properly constructed and maintained to avoid such problems, and appropriate education and extension systems are needed to improve the situation, as well as extensive investments in construction of new or replacement facilities. In urban areas, major investments are needed to re-establish functioning sewerage and waste treatment facilities.
Other Water Abstractions and Waste Treatment
The use of water resources in municipal and industrial water supply is organized through municipal (city) and departmental water supply and sewerage systems, which carry out water intakes from both open water sources and groundwater. After treatment, the return water is discharged (industrial-municipal wastewater), as a rule, into open water sources. Discharge of untreated sewage is a rare exception (accidents, temporary disparity of capacity, reconstruction and expansion of treatment facilities). Wastewater treatment of enterprises and cities pays great attention in the country. The total water intake for technical needs of industrial enterprises from water bodies in the basin in 2017 was 2,789,912.2 m3.
The analysis of water consumption and water disposal within the boundaries of the study area of the basin is based on the statistical reporting of enterprises in the form of 2-TP (Water Management) for 2016-2017. The analysis shows that real water consumption per unit of production is significantly higher, since water is used not only directly as basic raw material, but also for auxiliary needs – washing equipment, heating and cooling, etc.; for example, in food and light industry (whole-milk products, animal butter, meat, sausage products, flour production) water is used only for domestic and accessorial needs.
Information on the number of industrial enterprises that carried out water intake from water bodies within the basin in the Kulyab and Nizhniy Pyanj WRZs in 2017 is presented in Table 1.
Table 1: Water Use by Industry
Type and Number of Water Users
Water intake, m³
Industry: 60 companies
Non-ferrous metallurgy: 4 enterprises
Production of building materials: 16 companies
Coal industry: 2 enterprises
Food industry: 20 enterprises
The share of other industries in the use of water resources is 1%. Industrial enterprises use direct-flow and circulating water supply systems. With a direct-flow system, the water withdrawn from the sources after use (with or without cleaning) is discharged into watercourses.
In the case of a circulating system, the water used is cooled, cleaned and fed back into the water supply system. Thus, the circulating water supply system eliminates the discharge of wastewater into water bodies and provides for the repeated use of water in production. This system allows saving in technological processes from 70 to 95% of water.
The total volume of water discharged into water bodies by enterprises in the basin in 2017 was 2 789 912.2 m3.
In the structure of discharge into surface water bodies as a whole for the considered enlarged type of activity, according to reports on form 2-TP (Water Management) for 2016-2017, polluted wastewaters account for 72% of the total water disposal into surface water bodies, effluent treated to standard quality accounts for only 0.3% of such water disposal.
The study shows that up to 95% of industrial enterprises of the basin use surface waters. Water is used as a refrigerant that cools products in heat exchangers to protect individual elements of plants and machines from excessive heat. From 5 to 13% of industrial water is used to purify products or raw materials from impurities, as well as a transporting medium. This water is polluted and heated.
From 10 to 20% of industrial water is lost due to evaporation or as a part of the manufactured products. For example, enterprises for bottling of drinking water, production of juices, soft drinks, alcoholic beverages, canned vegetables and fruits.
The conservation of water resources and the prevention of environmental pollution are major problems for the industrial enterprises of the basin. One of the directions of their solution is seen in reducing the consumption of fresh water in technological processes per unit of production and reducing wastewater discharges into water bodies. As a result of a study of industrial enterprises, it was found that the largest sources of pollution of water bodies in terms of wastewater discharges are non-ferrous metallurgy, enterprises of the coal industry and the production of building materials. The main components of the pollutants are suspended solids, represented by fine dust with high sedimentation stability.
Surface runoff from coal treatment enterprises flows into ponds through the storm water drainage system; however, in case of heavy rains and prolonged rains, the existing desilting basins do not provide sufficient cleaning efficiency from the smallest suspended matter and oil products.
Due to the absence of sewage treatment facilities and the discharge of untreated sewage into surface water bodies, the water resources in the basin are also adversely affected by mining companies, such as “Tilloi Tojik” CJSC, “Zari Pomir” LLC, “Shimsho” LLC, “Odina” LLC and “Pamir” LLC in the Khovaling District, “Karona Gavkharshinos” LLC.
Water Supply and Sanitation – Economic Aspects
The population with some access to drinking water supply is 747,000, or 53% of the total. Access to mains sewage is confined to 106,000 persons, 16,400 households (in Zarbdor, Kulyab City and Khorog City), which is about 8% of the basin population. The volume of water taken from source is about 89 million m3 (but data from 24 jamoats is missing). Where the amount supplied to the distribution system is also known, the losses are about 13%.
The consumption per capita is variable, as over and under supply is evident. Consumption above 200 litres per capita per day of population was assumed to be for non-consumptive water use (e.g. garden irrigation, transfer to non-supplied households, waste, etc.) Re-calculating the required supply to meet the maximum 200 liters/per capita/per day criterion, this implies that 63.8 million m3 of 89 million m3 supplied (over 70%) is not being used for household consumptive use by supplied households. It may be that this water is not being paid for through tariffs, or perhaps through the irrigation tariff rather than the potable water tariff.
Figure 4: Consumption per Capita per Day (liters)
Total annual operation and maintenance costs are given for 30 Jamoats. This can be expressed in TJS/m3 extracted from source. The costs vary between TJS 0.87/m3 to TJS 0.01/m3, which is a very wide range. It needs to be checked if those water suppliers that have high O&M costs have other civic responsibilities, which is common where water suppliers have available construction equipment, while District authorities’ equipment is limited.
Large suppliers (greater than 1,000,000 m3 per annum, but note these are not all urban, as some data is available only by District which includes several jamoats, systems and suppliers) demonstrate the same variation in O&M costs than small providers, see the two graphs below. The data is very difficult to interpret but does broadly show what is expected – O&M costs per m3 decline with system size. Further, examining the outliers show that higher than expected costs are incurred in Vose and Temurmalik. The reason for this is not known.
Figure 6: O&M Costs for Large Providers (TJS/m3)
Figure 7: O&M Costs for Small Providers (TJS/m3)
O&M costs per m3 can also be expressed by number of households served (bearing in mind in many jamoats several households may share a standpipe, so it would be incorrect to refer to households as equivalent to connections). In this case O&M costs per m3 increase with the number of households served. This is reasonable given that number of households should determine the length of the supply system and higher costs are expected for longer systems. Again, Vose and Temurmalik Districts account for a large proportion of the outliers.
Figure 8: O&M Costs by Number of Households Served (TJS/m3)
The costs incurred by household for (private) water delivery by haulage are interesting because they provide an estimate of the willingness to pay for water for domestic use. Willingness to pay can be considered as an economic price, given that water is a non-tradable and can be valued in local currency without adjustment.
The trendline of household annual expenditure against reported distance hauled shows the right slope – costs per household do increase with distance hauled. The graph indicates a household will pay TJS 1,700 per annum in water delivery costs for every kilometer hauled. Though the confidence limits of the estimate are very wide, the statistic suggests a strong willingness to pay for water by water purchasers.
Figure 9: Household Haulage Cost (TJS/m3)
It was possible to put a value on this in TJS/m3 by estimating the annual use per household, which is available from the consumption figures of other households in the jamoat that are fortunate enough to be connected. Complete data is only available for Temurmalik and parts of Vose and Pyanje Districts. Data from Baljuvan had to be excluded as the amount supplied is reported to be 34 million m3 pa but the population supplied is only 27,000 people (see the first graph). From this one could not calculate a meaningful consumption per household. Haul distances in Temurmalik, Vose and Pyanje are relatively short (maximum 7 kilometres). Reported costs from households buying water vary from TJS 4.54/m3 (in Vose, where this cost per household is low) to TJS 57/m3 in Pyanj (Ozodagon jamoat). Households in Temurmalik pay between TJS 27/m3 and TJS 119/m3. The highest cost was obtained from Shurobad, TJS 170/m3.
Broadly, the willingness to pay for water seems to be in the region of TJS 30-50/m3, though this will vary by household, location and supplier. Note we are not sure what the household consumption of water is, because we use reported consumption statistics from households using the functioning supply system in the jamoat and apply it to water purchasing households. It may be that such households have lower consumption (because water is expensive) or higher (because water is available according to payment).
A supporting argument might be useful. In Kathmandu, Nepal it is very common for more affluent households and commercial enterprises to buy in water for domestic use by tanker. Haulage distances are similar to those reported in Pyanj Basin (5-30 km). The price of water is regulated and standardized for consumers but does cover the operating costs and profit margins of the private haulers who supply water. Depending on quantity and quality of water purchased, and using official exchange rates, the price varies between USD 2.28/m3 and USD 3.35/m3 (TJS 22-32/m3). Using Purchasing Power Parity (PPP) exchange rates from NPR to USD and USD to TJS the estimate is TJS 17-25/m3. The order of magnitude of the price of private water purchase from water vendors in Pyanj Basin and Kathmandu is similar, though somewhat lower in Kathmandu.
To make a closer estimate of the economic price of drinking water, it would be necessary to identify the household expenditure decile(s) of water purchasers. They are likely to be have higher consumption expenditure than non-water purchasers: if so, the economic price is over-estimated. The WTP for each decile would have to be identified and then weighted by household water consumption within the decile. The result would be a more robust estimate of the economic price of potable water. But an estimate of TJS 30-50/m3 is a start.
- The health implications, arising out of inadequate water and improper sanitation, are too serious to be ignored. Unlike a few other countries in the region, Tajikistan is endowed with abundant water resources, both surface and underground. This calls for developing an appropriate strategy to capitalize on this advantage. The recommendations presented below are a combination of strategies that could be taken up within different time frames, based on the availability of resources.
- Safe water and a healthy environment are essential pre-requisites to ensure the highest attainable standards of health for a community in general and a child in particular. The right of a child to better health can only be achieved through provision of clean water and an improved environmental sanitation.
- An inventory of the water resources (surface and underground) may be undertaken to assess the potential for developing potable water projects for the most disadvantaged areas. In this regard, development of springs in mountainous regions may get a priority.
- An assessment of the present status of the numerous water supply projects, particularly in rural areas, deserves attention to find out the magnitude of the problem and the type of interventions required.
- As there may be a considerable time-lag in developing large centralized water supply projects and even rehabilitating the existing ones due to financial and technological reasons, it may look appropriate to go for small and medium-scale community-based projects in rural areas.
- Deliberate attempts have to be made to bring down the variation in access to safe water and improved sanitation between rural and urban, between regions and among settlements with in a region. For this purpose, alternate technologies that are appropriate and cost-effective may have to be thought of.
- Serious thoughts have to be given in building community awareness on management of water resources. This could be done through sharing the required information, on the water crisis, with the community to enhance their practical understanding of the problem. Community mobilization should be an integral part of this approach.
- Every school should have a safe water source and adequate sanitary facilities for the children. The facilities should be gender sensitive and child friendly and combined with hygiene education.
- It may be appropriate to have a second look at the norms for water supply for different types of settlement (both rural and urban) and for different purpose. The feasibility of having a separate distribution system for gardening and other community facilities may be thought of. Water should be treated as an economic resource, not a free gift of nature.
- Regulatory measures may be strengthened to improve the collection of revenue by the water authorities. Besides, there is a need to introduce, in a phased manner, water metering in all areas that could contribute to reducing water wastage.
- Monitoring of ground water should get proper attention. Besides, it is necessary to work out a strategy for a conjunctive use of surface and ground water. This will call for close co-operation with the Agriculture and Irrigation Department.
- Measures for recharging ground water are required to avoid any future crisis. This will call for undertaking various soil conservation measures including plantation.
- Monitoring and surveillance of water quality by the community, particularly for bacteriological contamination, with SES providing the required back up may be thought of. For this the required technology is already available.
- Upgrading the pit toilets to sanitary toilets should be encouraged to create a hygienic environment both at household and community level.
- Involving NGOs (both local and international) in the community-based projects will be a step in the right direction.
- Within the overall framework of the above-mentioned recommendations, specific proposals will have to be developed for external assistance.
Multiple Indication Cluster Survey, Tajikistan 2000 ↑
The Third National Communication of the Republic of Tajikistan under the UN Framework Convention on Climate Change, Dushanbe 2014 ↑
World Bank. 2017. Glass Half Full: Poverty Diagnostic of Water Supply, Sanitation, and Hygiene Conditions in Tajikistan. WASH Poverty Diagnostic. World Bank, Washington, DC. ↑
Household consumption patterns are usually reported by decile in National Surveys ↑