Downstream hydrochemistry and irrigation water quality of the Syr Darya, Aral Sea Basin, South Kazakhstan

Bagdat Satybaldiyev, Baimurat Ismailov, Nurbek Nurpeisov, Kairat Kenges, Daniel D. Snow, Arindam Malakar, Omirzhan Taukebayev, Bolat Uralbekov

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

1 Scopus citations


New hydrochemical measurements from the Syr Darya provide insights into factors affecting the composition and quality of a major freshwater source replenishing the Aral Sea. This river is heavily used for power and irrigation and crosses territories of four Central Asia republics. It is intensely managed, draining several major tributaries, many reservoirs, and numerous irrigation distribution systems and canals. Analysis of seasonal changes in dissolved ion concentrations using geochemical diagrams, elemental ratios, statistical correlation, and equilibrium modeling allowed the characterization of mineral formation processes that control the dissolved chemical composition. Measured water hydrochemistry and composition type differs substantially from previous reports from the upper reaches of the Syr Darya in Kyrgyzstan. Element ratios, statistical correlation, and the presence of NO3- and NO2- suggest that the downstream trend of increasing total dissolved solids (TDS) from Zhetysay city to the Aral Sea in June is controlled by evaporation–crystallization processes, which contribute to the river dissolved load through soil runoff and return irrigation waters following leaching of secondary salts. Downstream sample composition during the growing season shows significant changes in magnesium-to-calcium ratios in the river water. Elevated magnesium levels in Syr Darya waters may pose a problem to sustainable uses for irrigation.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)2119-2134
Number of pages16
JournalWater Supply
Issue number5
StatePublished - May 1 2023
Externally publishedYes


  • hydrochemistry
  • irrigation
  • magnesium
  • major ions
  • sodicity
  • water quality

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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