I get wet when I know that you're dying.
So I've been focusing, as much as I have been focusing, on the "oil" part of "oil and water" thus far. But if I had to bet on it, the stuff we're looking at on this blog is going to get really nasty because of water shortages, not energy shortages. Basically, people can always find new energy sources (or just get off the grid...whatever works) but yeah...you kinda need water, don't you?
Central Asia has been lucky in that it's so unindustrialized. There's none of the massive contamination issues that plague other countries. And, in interesting news that you can pretty much only find on EXiled, the first big, economy-crippling, drought is going to hit the United States. Don't buy real estate in the Imperial or Fresno Valleys, if I were you.
But what you have in Central Asia are a lot of folks used to one way of life, and aren't quite sure what to do when that changes. And thanks to Soviet Education, quite a number of folks are trying to get the environment to change. River courses, salinity levels, and you know, the entire economy of Uzbekistan, are going to change. It will be big, and it will be the next few decades. And it's going to be real, real, tough to blame it on the Muslims.
Basically, back during Pax Sovietica, it was decreed that Uzbekistan would be the place to grow all the cotton. And even though this involved massive irrigation projects, the disappearance of the Aral Sea, and resulted in really seedy, mediocre, cotton, it happened. So now Uzbekistan has a cotton addiction like nothing else (they don't have the energy reserves of Turkmenistan, Kazakhstan, or even Xinjiang) and needs to feed this addiction with water. Water that, as mentioned earlier, Turkmenistan is siphoning the heck out of. And since Uzbekistan actually has a decent military (thanks, anti-terrorism measures!) while Turkmenistan are basically the bad guys from Top Gun it will end badly.
It will be very interesting to see the valuation of land in Central Asia going forward. My bet is, access to the Baikal and Issyk-kul are going to be huge once energy diversifies from fossil fuel (the Caspian is a bit, uhh, unattractive these days). I think the Buryat Republic and Mongolia are going to be especially interesting, considering they're flat and seem to be great for wind farms. Issyk-kul would make Kyrgyzstan more prime for stuff along the lines of Micro-hydro power if that ever gets implemented whole hog. And yeah, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya are still going to be important.
The funny thing is, water law is still awfully backwards, in the US and Central Asia. It's still dealt with much more as a fossil fuel-esque resource in the statutes here rather than a public good (but that may be me just being Maoist again). It'll probably take a disaster (aforementioned central Cali) to get the United States to wake up to it. This is a whole other post in and of itself. Probably tomorrow's. But meanwhile, Central Asia has the opportunity to become THE center of ecological, renewable, sustainable, buzzwordy, growth. It has the tiny population density, it has the communal culture, it has the resources that are going to be huge. I'd love to see some dude get innovative there and bring in some real innovative thinkers from the local context and all around the world to get all DesignObserver about Central Asia. I'd love to say Kazakhstan, but that library is a bit too Gehry-atric to be the Next Big Thing. But the future hot commodities are there, and it would be awesome for someone to take advantage of that.