Kazakhstan: Analysis of Legal Reform for the Management and Use of Water Resources (#433)

Water management in Kazakhstan was previously characterised by a command and control approach. The Water Code was adopted in 2003 as an answer to these problems. Furthermore, a project was launched to evaluate the current state of the legal framework for IWRM and to identify the potential for improvements and propose amendments to the Water Code. It is evident that IWRM is a complex approach and any amendments need to be done holistically. 


The system of the water management in Kazakhstan has inherited an old command and control mechanism from the Soviet times. This system of water management was difficult to control and the water providers had no interest to implement any water efficiency improvements.

The Water Code was adopted in 2003 as an answer to these problems. The Water Code developed several innovations in the water management system as well as introduced new institutional water regime, responsible for the water management at the basin level. The legal role of these bodies as well as function of the complex legal structure is not totally clear which might be a barrier on effective implementation of the IWRM.

Actions taken

The project “Promoting IWRM and Fostering Transboundary Dialogue in Central Asia” financed by UNDP, EU, Finland and ENVSEC was launched to analyse the current state of the legal framework for IWRM and to identify the potential for improvements.

The project also identified weak points of the framework together with recommendations for improvement. As a result, the project developed recommendations to amend the Water Code.

Findings and the full assessment were published in five books that are publicly available (CDs, online) free of charge. They are in great demand since they give comprehensive explanations on the implementation of articles of the Kazakhstan Water Code.

The project managers expect the recommendations and explanations to be a significant contribution to the development of the water management system and to a promotion of IWRM and public involvement in the management of water resources.

Lessons learnt

  • Introduction of new legal rules in the country with different legal traditions might not be a sufficient pre-requirement for IWMR development. Thus, further clarifications, explanations and analysis of the legal situation are needed.
  • IWRM is a complex approach and thus requires changes and improvement in a holistic way. Practically, this means synergy developments between different legislations and department (e.g agriculture, industrial regulations).
  • There is a need for clear and concrete norms, targets and limits in the regulation together with established monitoring system.
  • The establishment of enforcements and control measures is of the same importance as development of regulations itself.
  • Improvement of the information exchange system, as part of the regulation development is of enormous importance.

Photo credit: Phillip Capper