Water resources of Uzbekistan
Uzbekistan seas, rivers, lakes, and reservoirs
Most of Uzbekistan lies between the two largest rivers in Central Asia, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya. These two roughly parallel rivers both have their headwaters in the mountains east of Uzbekistan, and follow northwesterly courses toward the Aral Sea, a saltwater lake straddling the border between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. Since the early 1960s, the Aral Sea has shrunk to less than half its former size, and dry land has separated the remaining bodies of water into two main lakes. Uzbekistan's largest river is the Amu Darya. This river is formed by the confluence of the Panj and Vakhsh rivers on the extreme southwestern border of Tajikistan, near the southeastern tip of Uzbekistan. The Amu Darya traverses a course generally parallel to, and at times part of, Uzbekistan's southern borders with Afghanistan and Turkmenistan, and then heads due north through Uzbekistan's Karakalpak Autonomous Republic toward the southern section of the Aral Sea. The Syr Darya is formed in the fertile Fergana (Farghona) Valley by the convergence of two rivers flowing from the east, the Naryn and Koradaryo. The Syr Darya then flows westward through this valley and northern Tajikistan, turns north to cut through Uzbekistan, and enters Kazakhstan, eventually reaching the northern section of the Aral Sea.
Another important river is the Zeravshan, which flows westward from the mountains of Tajikistan through east-central Uzbekistan. Before it began to be tapped for irrigation, the Zeravshan was the Amu Darya's largest tributary; but now it evaporates in the Kyzylkum desert near the city of Bukhara (Bukhoro). Uzbekistan has thousands of small streams that expire in the desert, many having been emptied by irrigation.
Extensive canal systems, such as the Amu-Bukhara canal and many others built during the Soviet period, have greatly altered water-flow patterns. Artificial lakes and reservoirs have been created, many of which are fed by irrigation runoff. The largest freshwater lake is Lake Aydarkul, in northeastern Uzbekistan.