Irtysh River watershed
|Basin countries||Russia, Kazakhstan, China, Mongolia|
|Length||4,248 kilometres (2,640 mi)|
|Avg. discharge||2,150 cubic metres per second (76,000 cu ft/s) (near Tobolsk)|
|Basin area||1,643,000 square kilometres (634,000 sq mi)|
The Irtysh River (Russian: Иртыш; Kazakh: Ертiс / Ertis; Chinese: 额尔齐斯河, pinyin: É'ěrqísī hé; Uyghur: ئېرتىش; Mongolian: Эрчис мөрөн, "Twirl"; Tatar Cyrillic: Иртеш, Latin: İrteş) is a river in Siberia and Kazakhstan and is the chief tributary of the Ob River. Irtysh's main affluent is the Tobol River. The Ob-Irtysh forms a major drainage basin in Asia, encompassing most of Western Siberia and the Altai Mountains.
From its origins as the Kara-Irtysh (Black Irtysh) in the Mongolian Altay mountains in Xinjiang, China, the Irtysh flows north-west through Lake Zaysan in Kazakhstan, meeting the Ishim and Tobol rivers before merging with the Ob near Khanty-Mansiysk in western Siberia, Russia after 4,248 kilometres (2,640 mi).
Tankers and passenger and freight boats navigate the river between April and October, when it does not freeze over. Omsk, home to the headquarters of the state-owned Irtysh River Shipping Company, functions as the largest river-port in Western Siberia. On the Kazakhstan territory there are 3 major hydroelectric plants on Irtysh: at Bakhtarminsk, Ust-Kamenogorsk and Shulbinsk. The world's deepest lock, with a drop of 42 metres, allows river traffic to by-pass the dam at Ust-Kemenogorsk.
Some of the Northern river reversal proposals, widely discussed in the 1960s and 1970s, would have seen the direction of flow of the Irtysh reversed so as to supply water to central Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan. While these gigantic water management schemes were not implemented, a smaller Irtysh-Karaganda irrigation canal (Russian: Канал Иртыш — Караганда) was built between 1962 and 1974 to supply water to the dry Kazakh steppes and to one of the country's main industrial centers, Karaganda. In 2002, pipelines were constructed to supply water from the canal to the Ishim River and Kazakhstan's capital, Astana.
In the 2000s, projects for diverting a significant amounts of Irtysh water within China, such as the proposed Black Irtysh - Karamai Canal, have been decried by Kazakh and Russian environmentalists.
A number of Mongol and Turkic peoples occupied the river banks for many centuries. In the 15th and 16th centuries the lower and middle courses of the Irtysh lay within the Tatar Khanate of Sibir, which the Russians conquered in the 1580s. In the 17th century the Zunghar Khanate, formed by the Mongol Oirat people, became Russia's southern neighbor, and controlled the upper Irtysh. The Russians founded the cities of Omsk in 1716, Semipalatinsk in 1718, Ust-Kamenogorsk in 1720, and Petropavlovsk in 1752.
The Chinese Qing Empire conquered the Zunghar state in the 1750s. The border between the Russian and the Qing empires (the present border between Russia and Kazakhstan in the north and Mongolia and China in the south) was settled[by whom?] in the early 19th century.
Major cities on the Irtysh, from source to mouth, include:
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