The Aral Sea, a huge saline lake located in the arid south-central region of the former U.S.S.R., is vanishing because the inflows from its two feed rivers, the Amudar’ya and the Syrdar’ya, have diminished radically over the past three decades. The loss of river flow is the result of massive increases in river withdrawals, primarily for cotton irrigation in the basins. This paper uses a microcomputer model, the Water Evaluation and Planning System (WEAP), for simulating current water balances and evaluating water management strategies in the Aral Sea region. The authors perform a detailed water demand and supply simulation for the 1987–2020 period. The analysis provides a picture of an unfolding and deepening crisis.
Originally published in Water International 17, no. 2 (1992): 55–67.