Background of Our Work in Mongolia

About Mongolia

Mongolia is a landlocked country in east-central Asia. In area, it is 19th largest country in the world, with a population of 2.9 million inhabitants. Politically, Mongolia is a parliamentary republic.

For most of its area, Mongolia possesses a highly continental, semi-arid to arid climate characterized by low precipitation and therefore low water availability. Perennial rivers are found in the northern part of the country but are lacking in the dry southern part. River runoff in the summer is variable and depends on the amount of rainfall in the summer months, with contributions from the ice and snow collected in the mountains during the winter season. Lakes in Mongolia store approximately 75% of the total freshwater resources, with Lake Khuvsgul alone storing 75% of the total water volume in these lakes. From a water resources management perspective, Mongolia is divided into 29 water basins.

Water Challenges

Extremes in seasonal runoff, local stress, and chronic deficits threaten economic development in key sectors in Mongolia. Rainfall varies widely across regions, leading to dangerously high groundwater dependence. Climate change multiplies stress, with an 18% increase in heavy rainfall in humid areas and shrinking ice cover elsewhere.

Increasing water consumption, driven by rapid urban population increase and economic activity, is placing severe demands on Mongolia’s groundwater supply. Consequently, groundwater reserves – the source of approximately 80% of Mongolia’s water consumption – are deteriorating. The extractive industry, which accounts for 87.5% of Mongolia’s total export revenue, and manufacturing activities pollute existing groundwater, further depleting available water resources and increasing the risk to economic output. Up to 40% of the total population is supplied with unsafe drinking water, a trend that has continued for the last three years.

Ulaanbaatar, the capital city and home to roughly half the population, is equally at risk from water scarcity. In a high-demand scenario, approximately 43% of the total water demand in Ulaanbaatar is estimated to be unmet by existing supplies by 2030.