Afforestation of degraded croplands as a water‐saving option in irrigated region of the aral sea basin

Navneet Kumar, Asia Khamzina, Patrick Knöfel, John P.A. Lamers, Bernhard Tischbein

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Citations (Scopus)


Climate change is likely to decrease surface water availability in Central Asia, thereby necessitating land use adaptations in irrigated regions. The introduction of trees to marginally productive croplands with shallow groundwater was suggested for irrigation water‐saving and improving the land’s productivity. Considering the possible trade‐offs with water availability in largescale afforestation, our study predicted the impacts on water balance components in the lower reaches of the Amudarya River to facilitate afforestation planning using the Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT). The land‐use scenarios used for modeling analysis considered the afforestation of 62% and 100% of marginally productive croplands under average and low irrigation water supply identified from historical land‐use maps. The results indicate a dramatic decrease in the examined water balance components in all afforestation scenarios based largely on the reduced irrigation demand of trees compared to the main crops. Specifically, replacing current crops (mostly cotton) with trees on all marginal land (approximately 663 km2) in the study region with an average water availability would save 1037 mln m3 of gross irrigation input within the study region and lower the annual drainage discharge by 504 mln m3. These effects have a considerable potential to support irrigation water management and enhance drainage functions in adapting to future water supply limitations.

Original languageEnglish
Article number1433
JournalWater (Switzerland)
Issue number10
Publication statusPublished - 2021 May 2

Bibliographical note

Funding Information:
This research was funded by the National Research Foundation of Korea (NRF), grant number 2018K1A3A7A03089842 and EU 2020 Horizon, grant number 776019.

Publisher Copyright:
© 2021 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland.


  • Drainage ratio
  • Irrigation
  • Scenario analysis
  • Soil and Water Assessment Tool (SWAT)
  • Spatial water balance
  • Stream flow
  • Water yield

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Geography, Planning and Development
  • Biochemistry
  • Aquatic Science
  • Water Science and Technology


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