The desiccation of the Aral Sea is often cited in conjunction with the alleged high water use during cotton production, blaming cotton as origin. The truth is that due to political decisions of the Soviet Union the formerly deserted areas right next to the Aral Sea were made fit for agricultural use by irrigation. For this purpose, inflows of the Aral Sea were redirected, and a large amount of water has drained away or evaporated unused.
The false irrigation management was regarded as indicator for the “thirst” of cotton. But the applied environmentally damaging method may not be attributed to the plant cotton.
In general, cotton is drought-tolerant and predominantly planted in regions where hardly any other plant is able to survive.