Water engineers from Tajikistan visit Boulder
October 5, 2009, Laura Snider
as cold raindrops began to fall in Nederland,
reservoir manager Jim
Creek stood on top of the
Barker Dam and made a joke to a group of water managers at his own expense.
say this dam is like me," he said. "It's big, it's strong and it's
ugly." No one laughed -- at first. It
took a few minutes, after all, for Alexander Etlin to
translate the joke into Russian, so that the visiting water engineers from Tajikistan
could understand. And then the chuckles began.
This week, a
delegation of Tajiks is visiting Boulder to learn how the city manages its
water resources, promotes conservation, harnesses hydroelectric power and
collaborates with its neighbors.
Only one, Gulru Sharofovna, speaks English,
which means she and Etlin were busy asking and
answering questions for the others, sometimes having to translate complex
technical terms about treatment chemicals, water pumps and hydroelectric
turbines into Russian or Tajik.
Despite the fact
Tajikistan and Colorado sit on opposite
sides of the world, the two places face some similar challenges in water
management. Both rely on snowmelt from their high peaks for drinking water and irrigation, both have semi-arid climates and both argue with
their neighbors over water rights.
Water that melts
from Colorado's mountains flows through Nebraska, Kansas, New Mexico and Wyoming.
And that doesn't include the snow that feeds the Colorado River, ultimately
flowing past Utah, Arizona,
California and Mexico, which have battled for
decades over how that water is allocated.
More than 90
percent of Tajikistan is covered by the Alay and Pamir mountain ranges, where snowfields and glaciers melt
to feed Central Asia's two great rivers, the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya, which eventually supply water to the otherwise
parched countries of Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan. When all four
countries were ruled by the Soviets, control over the water was centralized,
but since the fall of the U.S.S.R., the countries have disagreed over who
should get how much water and at what cost.
are (fighting) within one country," said Sharofovna,
who lives in Dushanbe, Tajikistan's capitol and Boulder's sister city. "We are different
wealth of water, the infrastructure for delivering clean water to the people is
crumbling and insufficient. Nearly half of all Tajiks
do not have access to clean drinking water, Gul Sharifov, chief water engineer for the country's Rural
Water Supply Department, said through a translator. And 70 percent of the
systems that are now delivering water are in need of "reconstruction,
rehabilitation or expansion," Sharifov said.
is sponsored by the Open World Program -- which facilitates exchanges between
the United States and many of the former Russian republics -- and hosted by the
Boulder-Dushanbe Sister Cities organization.
On Monday, the
group visited Barker and Lakewood reservoirs,
wastewater treatment plant and the Betasso water
treatment plant. Over the next few days, the delegations will explore Boulder
Reservoir, learn about transmountain diversions of
water from the Western Slope and explore issues of Climate Change at the
National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.