Kura River

Kura River

Overview
Kura is a river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

, also known from the Greek as the Cyrus in the Caucasus Mountains
Caucasus Mountains
The Caucasus Mountains is a mountain system in Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the Caucasus region .The Caucasus Mountains includes:* the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and* the Lesser Caucasus Mountains....

. Starting in north-eastern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, it flows through Turkey to Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, then to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, where it receives the Aras River as a right tributary
Tributary
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

, and enters the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

. The total length of the river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 is 1515 kilometres (941.4 mi).

People have inhabited the Caucasus region for thousands of years, and first established agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 in the Kura Valley over 4,500 years ago.
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Encyclopedia
Kura is a river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

, also known from the Greek as the Cyrus in the Caucasus Mountains
Caucasus Mountains
The Caucasus Mountains is a mountain system in Eurasia between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea in the Caucasus region .The Caucasus Mountains includes:* the Greater Caucasus Mountain Range and* the Lesser Caucasus Mountains....

. Starting in north-eastern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, it flows through Turkey to Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, then to Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

, where it receives the Aras River as a right tributary
Tributary
A tributary or affluent is a stream or river that flows into a main stem river or a lake. A tributary does not flow directly into a sea or ocean...

, and enters the Caspian Sea
Caspian Sea
The Caspian Sea is the largest enclosed body of water on Earth by area, variously classed as the world's largest lake or a full-fledged sea. The sea has a surface area of and a volume of...

. The total length of the river
River
A river is a natural watercourse, usually freshwater, flowing towards an ocean, a lake, a sea, or another river. In a few cases, a river simply flows into the ground or dries up completely before reaching another body of water. Small rivers may also be called by several other names, including...

 is 1515 kilometres (941.4 mi).

People have inhabited the Caucasus region for thousands of years, and first established agriculture
Agriculture
Agriculture is the cultivation of animals, plants, fungi and other life forms for food, fiber, and other products used to sustain life. Agriculture was the key implement in the rise of sedentary human civilization, whereby farming of domesticated species created food surpluses that nurtured the...

 in the Kura Valley over 4,500 years ago. Large, complex civilizations eventually grew up on the river, but by 1200 CE, most were reduced to ruin by natural disasters and foreign invaders. The increasing human use, and eventual damage, of the watershed’s forests and grasslands contributed to a rising intensity of flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

s through the 20th century. In the 1950s, the Soviet
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

s started building many dams and canals on the river. Previously navigable up to Tbilisi
Tbilisi
Tbilisi is the capital and the largest city of Georgia, lying on the banks of the Mt'k'vari River. The name is derived from an early Georgian form T'pilisi and it was officially known as Tiflis until 1936...

 in Georgia, it is now much slower and shallower, as its power has been harnessed by hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

 stations. The river is now moderately polluted by major industrial centers like Tbilisi and Rustavi
Rustavi
Rustavi is a city in the southeast of Georgia, in the province of Kvemo Kartli, situated southeast of the capital Tbilisi. It stands on the Mtkvari River at...

 in Georgia.

Name


The name Kura is related extract from name of Cyrus the Great
Cyrus the Great
Cyrus II of Persia , commonly known as Cyrus the Great, also known as Cyrus the Elder, was the founder of the Achaemenid Empire. Under his rule, the empire embraced all the previous civilized states of the ancient Near East, expanded vastly and eventually conquered most of Southwest Asia and much...

 or to an ancient Albanian
Caucasian Albania
Albania is a name for the historical region of the eastern Caucasus, that existed on the territory of present-day republic of...

 term for 'reservoir.' The Georgian
Georgian language
Georgian is the native language of the Georgians and the official language of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus.Georgian is the primary language of about 4 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad...

 name of Kura is Mt'k'vari (in old Georgian
Georgian language
Georgian is the native language of the Georgians and the official language of Georgia, a country in the Caucasus.Georgian is the primary language of about 4 million people in Georgia itself, and of another 500,000 abroad...

 Mt'k'uari), either from Georgian 'good water' or a Georgianized form of Megrelian tkvar-ua 'gnaw' (i.e., "river that eats its way through the mountains"). The name Kura was adopted first by the Russia
Russia
Russia or , officially known as both Russia and the Russian Federation , is a country in northern Eurasia. It is a federal semi-presidential republic, comprising 83 federal subjects...

ns and later by Europe
Europe
Europe is, by convention, one of the world's seven continents. Comprising the westernmost peninsula of Eurasia, Europe is generally 'divided' from Asia to its east by the watershed divides of the Ural and Caucasus Mountains, the Ural River, the Caspian and Black Seas, and the waterways connecting...

an cartographers. In some definitions of Europe, the Kura River defines the borderline between Europe and Asia
Asia
Asia is the world's largest and most populous continent, located primarily in the eastern and northern hemispheres. It covers 8.7% of the Earth's total surface area and with approximately 3.879 billion people, it hosts 60% of the world's current human population...

.

The river should not be confused with the Kura River, Russia, a westward flowing tributary of the Malka River
Malka River
Malka River , also known as Balyksu River , is a river in Kabardino-Balkaria in Russia, Terek's left tributary. The length of the river is 210 km. The area of its basin is 10,000 km². The Malka originates in the glaciers on the northern slopes of Mount Elbrus. Its main tributary is the...

 in Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai
Stavropol Krai is a federal subject of Russia . Its administrative center is the city of Stavropol. Population: -Geography:Stavropol Krai encompasses the central part of the Fore-Caucasus and most of the northern slopes of Caucasus Major...

; the Kur River near Kursk, Russia; or the other Kur River
Kur River (Khabarovsk Krai)
The Kur River is a river in the Khabarovsk Krai, 434 km long. It merges with the Urmi River, forming the Tunguska River, which is a left tributary of the Amur.The Kur and Urmi often flood in the summer.- Sources :*...

 near Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk
Khabarovsk is the largest city and the administrative center of Khabarovsk Krai, Russia. It is located some from the Chinese border. It is the second largest city in the Russian Far East, after Vladivostok. The city became the administrative center of the Far Eastern Federal District of Russia...

, also in Russia.

Course


It rises in northeastern Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

 in a small valley in the Kars
Kars
Kars is a city in northeast Turkey and the capital of Kars Province. The population of the city is 73,826 as of 2010.-Etymology:As Chorzene, the town appears in Roman historiography as part of ancient Armenia...

 Upland of the Lesser Caucasus
Lesser Caucasus
Lesser Caucasus is one of the two main mountain ranges of Caucasus mountains, of length about 600 km....

. It flows east, then west and north past Ardahan
Ardahan
Ardahan is a city in northeastern Turkey, near the Georgian border.-Ancient and medieval:In Ancient times the region was called Gogarene, which is assumed to derive from the name of Gugars, who were a Proto-Kartvelian tribe...

, crosses into Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, then into a canyon near Akhaltsikhe
Akhaltsikhe
Akhaltsikhe is a small city in Georgia's southwestern region of Samtskhe-Javakheti. It is situated on the both banks of a small river Potskhovi, which separates the city to the old city in the north and new in the south. The name of the city translates from Georgian as "new fortress".- History...

. From there, it runs northwest in a gorge for about 75 kilometres (46.6 mi), spilling out of the mountains near Khashuri
Khashuri
Khashuri is a town in central Georgia. It is located on the Mtkvari River.Khashuri is first mentioned in the 1693 document. Modern Khashuri was founded in 1872 as a modest railway halt called "Mikhaylovo" after Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich of Russia, Viceroy of the Caucasus. In 1917, it was...

. It then arcs east and starts to flow east-southeast for about 120 kilometres (74.6 mi), past Gori
Gori, Georgia
Gori is a city in eastern Georgia, which serves as the regional capital of Shida Kartli and the centre of the homonymous administrative district. The name is from Georgian gora , that is, "heap", or "hill"...

, then near Mtskheta
Mtskheta
Mtskheta , one of the oldest cities of the country of Georgia , is located approximately 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. The city is now the administrative centre of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region...

, flows south through a short canyon and along the west side of T'bilisi, the largest city in the region. The river flows steeply southwest past Rustavi
Rustavi
Rustavi is a city in the southeast of Georgia, in the province of Kvemo Kartli, situated southeast of the capital Tbilisi. It stands on the Mtkvari River at...

 and turns westward at the confluence with the Khrami River
Khrami River
The Khrami River is a 201 km-long river in eastern Georgia and partly in western Azerbaijan, the right tributary to the Kura River. It originates in the Trialeti Range and flows into the deep valley, being primarily fed by snow. Its tributaries are: the Debeda and Mashavera rivers. The Tsalka...

, crossing the Georgia-Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 line and flowing across grasslands into Shemkir reservoir
Shemkir reservoir
The Shamkir reservoir is a large lake in the Shamkir Rayon of northwestern Azerbaijan. It is thesecond largest reservoir in the Caucasus after the Mingachevir reservoir.- Overview :...

 and then Yenikend reservoir
Yenikend reservoir
The Yenikend reservoir is a large lake in the Shamkir Rayon of northwestern Azerbaijan. It is the third largest reservoir in the Caucasus after the Mingachevir and Shamkir reservoirs.-Overview:...

.

The Kura then empties into Mingachevir reservoir
Mingachevir reservoir
The Mingachevir reservoir is a large lake in northwestern Azerbaijan. It is the largest reservoir in the Caucasus.-Overview:The reservoir was built on a section of Kura River flowing through Mount Bozdağ in 1953. The filling capacity of the reservoir is whereas the volume is 15730 mln m³...

, the largest body of water in Azerbaijan, formed by a dam near its namesake town at the southeastern end. The Iori
Iori River
The Iori is a river in the South Caucasus which originates in the Greater Caucasus Mountains in eastern Georgia and continues in Azerbaijan where it is also known as Gabirry and flows into the Mingachevir Reservoir. Its length is 320km....

 (also known as Qabirri) and Alazani
Alazani
The Alazani is a river that flows through the Caucasus.It is the main tributary of the Kura in eastern Georgia, and flows for 351 km...

 rivers formerly joined the Kura, but their mouths are now submerged under the lake. After leaving the dam the river meanders southwest where it meets its biggest tributary Tartarchay in Barda rayon and continues across a broad irrigated plain for several hundred kilometers, turning west near Lake Sarysu
Lake Sarysu
Sarysu is a relatively large lake of Azerbaijan located in Imishli and Sabirabad raions of the Kur-Araz Lowland.-Overview:Sarysu lake stretches along the Kura River from Imishli Rayon southeast to Sabirabad Rayon reaching the total length of . It is one of the four lakes present in the area and is...

, and shortly after, receives the Aras, the largest tributary, at the city of Sabirabad
Sabirabad (city)
Sabirabad is a city in and the capital of the Sabirabad Rayon of Azerbaijan...

. At the Aras confluence it makes a large arc to the north and then flows almost due south for about 60 kilometres (37.3 mi), passing the west side of Shirvan National Park
Shirvan National Park
Shirvan National Park — is a national park of Azerbaijan. It was established by the decree of the President of Azerbaijan Ilham Aliyev, on July 5, 2003 within the territory of Salyan Rayon and Neftçala Rayon administrative districts. Its surface area is ....

, turning west into the Caspian Sea at Neftçala
Neftçala
Neftçala is a city in and the capital of the Neftchala Rayon of Azerbaijan. In the city, there is palace of culture, regional study museum and gallery museum.-External links:*...

.

Basin



Natural features


Most of the Kura River runs in the broad and deep valley between the Greater Caucasus
Greater Caucasus
Greater Caucasus , sometimes translated as "Caucasus Major", "Big Caucasus" or "Large Caucasus") is the major mountain range of the Caucasus Mountains....

 and Lesser Caucasus
Lesser Caucasus
Lesser Caucasus is one of the two main mountain ranges of Caucasus mountains, of length about 600 km....

 mountains, and the major tributary, the Aras, drains most of the southern Caucasus and the mountain ranges of the extreme northern Middle East
Middle East
The Middle East is a region that encompasses Western Asia and Northern Africa. It is often used as a synonym for Near East, in opposition to Far East...

. The entirety of Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and most of Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan
Azerbaijan , officially the Republic of Azerbaijan is the largest country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded by the Caspian Sea to the east, Russia to the north, Georgia to the northwest, Armenia to the west, and Iran to...

 are drained by the Kura River, but the Kura does not pass through Armenia at all. Also in the Kura watershed are Turkey
Turkey
Turkey , known officially as the Republic of Turkey , is a Eurasian country located in Western Asia and in East Thrace in Southeastern Europe...

, Georgia
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

, and a bit of northern Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. Most of the elevation change in the river occurs within the first 200 kilometres (124.3 mi). While the river starts at 2740 metres (8,989.5 ft) above sea level, the elevation is 693 metres (2,273.6 ft) by the time it reaches Khashuri
Khashuri
Khashuri is a town in central Georgia. It is located on the Mtkvari River.Khashuri is first mentioned in the 1693 document. Modern Khashuri was founded in 1872 as a modest railway halt called "Mikhaylovo" after Grand Duke Michael Nikolaevich of Russia, Viceroy of the Caucasus. In 1917, it was...

 in central Georgia, just out of the mountains, and only 291 metres (954.7 ft) when it reaches Azerbaijan.

The lower part of the river flows through the Kura-Aras Lowland
Kura-Aras Lowland
The Kura-Aras Lowland, Kura-Aras Depression or Kura-Aras Basin is a vast depression in central-southern Azerbaijan defined by the valleys of the Kura River and Aras River. It is situated by the West shore of the Caspian Sea and is part of the Aral-Caspian Depression...

, which covers most of central Azerbaijan and abuts the Caspian Sea. The Kura is the third largest, after the Volga
Volga River
The Volga is the largest river in Europe in terms of length, discharge, and watershed. It flows through central Russia, and is widely viewed as the national river of Russia. Out of the twenty largest cities of Russia, eleven, including the capital Moscow, are situated in the Volga's drainage...

 and Ural
Ural River
The Ural or Jayıq/Zhayyq , known as Yaik before 1775, is a river flowing through Russia and Kazakhstan. It arises in the southern Ural Mountains and ends at the Caspian Sea. Its total length is 1,511 mi making it the third longest river in Europe after the Volga and the Danube...

, of the rivers that flow into the Caspian. Its delta
River delta
A delta is a landform that is formed at the mouth of a river where that river flows into an ocean, sea, estuary, lake, reservoir, flat arid area, or another river. Deltas are formed from the deposition of the sediment carried by the river as the flow leaves the mouth of the river...

 is the fourth largest among the rivers that flow into the Caspian Sea, and is divided into three main sections, or "sleeves", composed of sediment the river deposited during different periods of time. Before 1998, the river flowed all the way to the tip of the delta, where it discharged into the Caspian. In that year, the river escaped its channel and started to flow off to the west, leaving the last few kilometers abandoned. The course change is believed to be the result of a rise in the level of the Caspian Sea coupled with a major flood of the Kura.

About 174 kilometres (108.1 mi) of the river is in Turkey, 435 kilometres (270.3 mi) in Georgia, and 906 kilometres (563 mi) in Azerbaijan.
About 5500 square kilometres (2,123.6 sq mi) of the catchment is in Turkey, 29743 square kilometres (11,483.8 sq mi) in Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

, 46237 square kilometres (17,852.2 sq mi) in Georgia, 56290 square kilometres (21,733.7 sq mi) in Azerbaijan, and about 63500 square kilometres (24,517.5 sq mi) are in Iran
Iran
Iran , officially the Islamic Republic of Iran , is a country in Southern and Western Asia. The name "Iran" has been in use natively since the Sassanian era and came into use internationally in 1935, before which the country was known to the Western world as Persia...

. At the confluence with the Aras River, the drainage area of the tributary is actually larger than the Kura by about 4%, and it is also longer. However, because of the more arid conditions and equally intensive water use, the discharge of the Aras is much less than the Kura, so downstream of the confluence the river is still called the Kura. About 52% of the river's flow comes from snowmelt and glaciers, 30% comes from groundwater seepage, and roughly 18% from precipitation. Because of high water use, many of the smaller tributaries of the Kura no longer reach the river, instead disappearing in the plain many kilometers from their original mouths.

Ecology



Steppe
Steppe
In physical geography, steppe is an ecoregion, in the montane grasslands and shrublands and temperate grasslands, savannas, and shrublands biomes, characterized by grassland plains without trees apart from those near rivers and lakes...

 characterizes the arid reaches of the Kura River catchment, while meadows are often found in the alpine areas. The Kura River area is considered as part of the Kura-South Caspian Sea Drainages ecoregion
Ecoregion
An ecoregion , sometimes called a bioregion, is an ecologically and geographically defined area that is smaller than an ecozone and larger than an ecosystem. Ecoregions cover relatively large areas of land or water, and contain characteristic, geographically distinct assemblages of natural...

. Some portions of the river flow through a semi-desert
Desert
A desert is a landscape or region that receives an extremely low amount of precipitation, less than enough to support growth of most plants. Most deserts have an average annual precipitation of less than...

 environment. Forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

 cover is sparse. Almost 60 species of fish inhabit the Kura River and its tributaries. Some common families include loach
Loach
Loach may refer to:* Loaches, fish families in the Cypriniformes:** Cobitidae, the "true" loaches – formerly all loaches were united in this family** Balitoridae, the hillstream loaches – the largest family, closely related to Cobitidae...

, bleak
Bleak
The common bleak is a small pelagic fish of the Cyprinid family. It is often referred to simply as a "bleak", though this term can refer to any species of Alburnus.-Description:...

, trout
Trout
Trout is the name for a number of species of freshwater and saltwater fish belonging to the Salmoninae subfamily of the family Salmonidae. Salmon belong to the same family as trout. Most salmon species spend almost all their lives in salt water...

 and nase
Nase
The Common Nase is a potamodromous fish found in the basins of the Meuse, Rhine and Danube rivers. It is often simply called "the nase", but that can refer to any species of its genus Chondrostoma. Another local name is sneep....

, and many of these fish are endemic to the region. Among rivers of the Caucasus, the Kura has the largest number of endemic species. The upper section of the river supports much more biodiversity than the lower half, which is typically more turbid
Turbidity
Turbidity is the cloudiness or haziness of a fluid caused by individual particles that are generally invisible to the naked eye, similar to smoke in air. The measurement of turbidity is a key test of water quality....

 and polluted. This pattern is also apparent in most of its tributaries, especially the larger ones that span more climate zones, such as the Aras and Alazani. There are many lakes and wetland
Wetland
A wetland is an area of land whose soil is saturated with water either permanently or seasonally. Wetlands are categorised by their characteristic vegetation, which is adapted to these unique soil conditions....

s along the Kura's lower course, most of which are formed by flood
Flood
A flood is an overflow of an expanse of water that submerges land. The EU Floods directive defines a flood as a temporary covering by water of land not normally covered by water...

ing, and some of which are formed by irrigation runoff water. Many lakes also form at the mouths of small tributaries that do not reach the ultimate destination in the Caspian most of the time. The local name for these lakes translates to dead lake or dead water, suggesting that these lakes do not support much biodiversity.

Economy and human use



Formerly navigable up to T'bilisi, the largest city on the river, the amount of water in the Kura has greatly diminished in the 20th century because of extensive use for irrigation
Irrigation
Irrigation may be defined as the science of artificial application of water to the land or soil. It is used to assist in the growing of agricultural crops, maintenance of landscapes, and revegetation of disturbed soils in dry areas and during periods of inadequate rainfall...

, municipal water, and hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity
Hydroelectricity is the term referring to electricity generated by hydropower; the production of electrical power through the use of the gravitational force of falling or flowing water. It is the most widely used form of renewable energy...

 generation. The Kura is regarded as one of the most stressed river basins in Asia. Most of the water comes from snow
Snow
Snow is a form of precipitation within the Earth's atmosphere in the form of crystalline water ice, consisting of a multitude of snowflakes that fall from clouds. Since snow is composed of small ice particles, it is a granular material. It has an open and therefore soft structure, unless packed by...

 melt and infrequent precipitation in the mountains, which leads to severe floods and an abundance of water for a short time of the year (generally in June and July), and a relatively low sustainable baseflow
Baseflow
Baseflow is the portion of streamflow that comes from "the sum of deep subsurface flow and delayed shallow subsurface flow"...

. Forest
Forest
A forest, also referred to as a wood or the woods, is an area with a high density of trees. As with cities, depending where you are in the world, what is considered a forest may vary significantly in size and have various classification according to how and what of the forest is composed...

 cover is sparse, especially in the Kura and Aras headwaters, and most of the water that falls on the highlands becomes runoff instead of supplying groundwater
Groundwater
Groundwater is water located beneath the ground surface in soil pore spaces and in the fractures of rock formations. A unit of rock or an unconsolidated deposit is called an aquifer when it can yield a usable quantity of water. The depth at which soil pore spaces or fractures and voids in rock...

. Attempts at flood control include the constructions of levee
Levee
A levee, levée, dike , embankment, floodbank or stopbank is an elongated naturally occurring ridge or artificially constructed fill or wall, which regulates water levels...

s, dikes and dams
DAMS
Driot-Arnoux Motorsport is a racing team from France, involved in many areas of motorsports. DAMS was founded in 1988 by Jean-Paul Driot and former Formula One driver René Arnoux. It is headquartered near Le Mans, only 2 km from the Bugatti Circuit.- History :The year after its foundation,...

, the largest of which is at Mingachevir
Mingachevir
Mingachevir , sometimes spelled Mingecevir, is the fourth-biggest city in Azerbaijan with a population of about 100,000. It is known as city of lights because of its hydroelectric power station on the Kur River, which splits the city in half....

, an 80 metres (262.5 ft)-high rockfill dam impounding over 15.73 cubic kilometre of water. However, because of the high sediment
Sediment
Sediment is naturally occurring material that is broken down by processes of weathering and erosion, and is subsequently transported by the action of fluids such as wind, water, or ice, and/or by the force of gravity acting on the particle itself....

 content of rivers in the Kura basin, the effectiveness of these floodworks is limited and decreases every year.

Irrigation agriculture has been one of the primary economic mainstays of the lower Kura valley since ancient times. Because of water taken out for irrigation use, up to 20% of the water that formerly flowed in the river no longer reaches the Caspian Sea. Over 70% of the water in the Iori
Iori River
The Iori is a river in the South Caucasus which originates in the Greater Caucasus Mountains in eastern Georgia and continues in Azerbaijan where it is also known as Gabirry and flows into the Mingachevir Reservoir. Its length is 320km....

 (Gabirry) River, a major tributary of the Kura, is expended before it reaches Lake Mingachevir. Of the 4525000 hectares (11,181,508.6 acre) of agricultural land in the lower Kura River watershed, 1426000 hectares (3,523,719.6 acre), about 31%, are irrigated. Much of the water diverted from the river for irrigation goes to waste because of leakage from the canals, evaporation, poor maintenance, and other causes. Leaking water causes groundwater to rise, in some areas so high that about 267000 hectares (659,770.8 acre) of land are so waterlogged that they are no longer suitable for agriculture. About 631000 hectares (1,559,233.6 acre) of the irrigated lands have a dangerously high salt
Salt
In chemistry, salts are ionic compounds that result from the neutralization reaction of an acid and a base. They are composed of cations and anions so that the product is electrically neutral...

 content because of mineral deposits from irrigation. Of this, 66000 hectares (163,089.4 acre) are extremely salinated. Irrigation return water, returned to the river by an extensive but outdated drainage system, contributes to severe pollution. Some of this degradation also comes from industrial and municipal wastewater discharge.

History



People have lived on the Kura for at least 7,000 years? The ancient inhabitants of the Kura-Aras lowland called the river Mother Kür, signifying the importance of the river to the region. The first irrigation agriculture began about 4,500 years ago in the eastern Azerbaijan lowlands. Trading centers were established in time, including one at Mingachevir in Azerbaijan and another at Mtskheta
Mtskheta
Mtskheta , one of the oldest cities of the country of Georgia , is located approximately 20 kilometers north of Tbilisi at the confluence of the Aragvi and Kura rivers. The city is now the administrative centre of the Mtskheta-Mtianeti region...

 in Georgia.

The site at Mingachevir (probably Sudagylan), first discovered in the 1940s by archaeologist G.I. Ione, had "seven rectangular kilns … The fuel chamber was trapezoid. The inner walls and floor were covered with a special coating. These kilns were attributed to the third century B.C. [2,300 years ago]. The number of kilns and the quantity of raw material indicate a trade center." The settlement was probably destroyed by a fire around A.D. 600, but its demise is uncertain. But perhaps most famous of the ancient settlements on the Kura is the "cave town" at Uplistsikhe
Uplistsikhe
Uplistsikhe is an ancient rock-hewn town in eastern Georgia, some 10 kilometers east of the town of Gori, Shida Kartli.Built on a high rocky left bank of the Mtkvari River, it contains various structures dating from the Early Iron Age to the Late Middle Ages, and is notable for the unique...

, Georgia, first settled as early as 3,500 years ago. The city, carved into a cliff on the bank of the Kura covering an area of 8 hectares (19.8 acre), contains underground living quarters, communal chambers, places of worship, storerooms, connected by a network of passageways. It reached its peak about 1,100 years ago as the political, religious and cultural center of the region, but in the 13th century, it fell to Mongolia
Mongolia
Mongolia is a landlocked country in East and Central Asia. It is bordered by Russia to the north and China to the south, east and west. Although Mongolia does not share a border with Kazakhstan, its western-most point is only from Kazakhstan's eastern tip. Ulan Bator, the capital and largest...

n invaders.

Even though irrigation agriculture had been well established for thousands of years, until the 1920s, humans did not have a significant effect on the ecology or hydrology of the Kura River watershed. Since then, logging
Logging
Logging is the cutting, skidding, on-site processing, and loading of trees or logs onto trucks.In forestry, the term logging is sometimes used in a narrow sense concerning the logistics of moving wood from the stump to somewhere outside the forest, usually a sawmill or a lumber yard...

, grazing
Grazing
Grazing generally describes a type of feeding, in which a herbivore feeds on plants , and also on other multicellular autotrophs...

 and especially agriculture began to have a severe outcome on the water availability of the basin. Many forested areas in the mountains have been replaced by thin grassland because of logging. These habitat changes have been detrimental to the ecology of the Kura basin. After the 1920s, wetlands were drained and reservoir
Reservoir
A reservoir , artificial lake or dam is used to store water.Reservoirs may be created in river valleys by the construction of a dam or may be built by excavation in the ground or by conventional construction techniques such as brickwork or cast concrete.The term reservoir may also be used to...

s were created to facilitate development of irrigation in the lower Kura valley.

In the 1950s and 1960s, when the Caucasus region was part of the Soviet Union
Soviet Union
The Soviet Union , officially the Union of Soviet Socialist Republics , was a constitutionally socialist state that existed in Eurasia between 1922 and 1991....

, construction of many of the reservoirs and waterworks in the Kura basin began. Of the major reservoirs in the Kura catchment, one of the earliest was at Varvara
Varvara, Azerbaijan
Varvara is a village and municipality in the Yevlakh Rayon of Azerbaijan. It has a population of 1,634....

 in 1952. Large scale construction of dams continued until the 1970s.

External links

  • Kura. The Columbia Encyclopedia, Sixth Edition. 2001-05.