International Water Research Alliance Saxony

The Region

Many areas in Central Asia face severe water shortages fuelled by drastic socio-economic changes, fast land use changes on large scales as well as extreme climate conditions. This creates a considerable potential for water resource conflicts at local, national and international levels. Hence, the challenge is to address issues related to the allocation, efficient use, and adequate protection of water resources in terms of quality and quantity, as well as securing a functioning infrastructure for drinking water supply and waste water treatment. Mongolia, a country in transition from a socialist to a capitalist regime, is characteristic for large parts of Central Asia. It is not only of great interest in terms of socio-economic change, but is also well suited for natural science process studies due to its environmental settings typical for semi-arid conditions.

Nomad life in Mongolia

The Study Area

The focus of IWAS Central Asia lies on the meso-scale catchment of the Kharaa River, Mongolia, covering an area of approximately 15,000 km². This catchment is part of the Selenge River basin (945,500 km²), which is shared by Mongolia and Russia and drains into Lake Baikal. The Kharaa sub-basin is a backbone of economic development in Mongolia and provides opportunities to study different types of land and water uses under change, including pristine head waters, nomadic herding, mining areas, industrial zones, agricultural irrigation, and urban development.

Objectives of the Regional Project

The overriding goal of IWAS Central Asia is to contribute towards the development of catchment-based stakeholder owned strategies for a sustainable water use. IWAS develops integrative approaches and models with high predictive capacity, supplemented with an analysis of the socio-economic framework conditions as a basis for decision-making. This includes the improvement of qualitative and quantitative methods for the assessment of water resources and water management systems in semi-arid and arid areas. The regional project contributes substantially to the development of the “IWAS-Toolbox”, consisting of an information, modelling, and policy-evaluation system including the visualisation of results. IWAS Central Asia is complementarily linked to research being conducted within the ongoing BMBF-funded project “Integrated Water Resources Management in Central Asia – Model Region Mongolia (MoMo)” (

Our scientific innovations:
Socio-environmental systems: Investigation and prediction of the dynamics of a coupled socio-environmental system through integrated modelling approaches: human activities are linked with major land and water use sectors in order to study the impacts of societal and environmental changes.
Hydrology, biodiversity and ecosystem functions: Evaluation of principle relationships between flow regime, suspended sediment transport and river ecosystem status in a typical semi-arid catchment. Research is based on a combined monitoring and integrated modelling approach.
Policy Evaluation: A policy evaluation method is empirically investigated and institutional frameworks, decision structures and user perspectives are analysed in order to identify prerequisites for the implementation of an IWRM in the region.
Innovative strategies for the treatment and reuse of waste water fractions: Development of novel technologies for the sanitation of wastewater fractions and basic research on the effects of the carbonised conversion products on crop performance. Development of aptamer-based pathogen sensors for fast, reliable, in-situ detection of water pollutants.
Capacity Development: Activities in Ulaanbataar and in the Kharaa basin follow IWRM’s holistic approach: IWAS aims at addressing the academic, administrative, and technical levels as well as the general public.


Main German partners of IWAS-Central Asia are the TU Dresden (Institutes for Meteorology, Hydrobiology, Hydrology and Sanitary Environ-mental Engineering and the Helmholtz Centre for Environmental Research – UFZ (Departments of Aquatic Ecosystem Analysis and Management, Economics, and the Centre for Environmental Biotechnology).
Contacts and partners in Mongolia include Ministries dealing with water management issues (Mongolian Ministry of Construction & Urban Development, Mongolian Ministry of Nature and Environment, Mongolian Ministry of Food and Agriculture), the National Water Agency, the National Water Commission, and the National Agency for Environmental Monitoring.
On the regional level the project is cooperating with the regional government of the Darkhan Uul Aimag, regional Environmental Agencies, and the Water Supply and Sewerage System Company in Darkhan City (USAG).
On the academic level the project cooperates with the major universities of Mongolia (National University of Mongolia, Mongolian University of Science and Technology, University of Agriculture Darkhan), and the Mongolian Academy of Sciences.
Further contacts and cooperation exist with the local office of the “Gesellschaft für technische Zusammenarbeit“ (GTZ) and the German Embassy in Ulan Bator.

IWAS-Central Asia is strongly interconnected with the German Federal Ministry of Education and Research (BMBF) funded project “Integrated Water Resources Management for Central Asia: Model Region Mongolia (MoMo)“ that is covered by the following institutions:
University of Kassel - Center for Environmental Systems Research; Leibniz-Institute of Freshwater Ecology and Inland Fisheries (IGB); Technical University Ilmenau; Fraunhofer Application Center System Technology Ilmenau; Consulting Engineers Dr. Pecher & Partner (P&P), Association for Urban Water Management.

Contact and further Information:

Dietrich Borchardt, Project management (UFZ)

Daniel Karthe, Project coordination (UFZ)
Telefon: +49 391 810 9104


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