The main crop grown here is grapes, which are dried and then turned into raisins. Mijiti Saludin, 32, and his wife grow grapes here and told the New York TImes they now have to get their water from the government, since the karez near their home dried up. "We used to get it for free, but now we have to pay for our water and it isn't very clean," he said.
The issue facing the Uighur people has not gone unnoticed by the Chinese government. In 2008, a $182 million project was spearheaded by the local government, funded in part by the World Bank, to help rehabilitate the karez.
However, other branches of government believe the demise of the karez is inevitable and should not be of much concern. "There is no need to make a fuss about the drying of the karez. It is a historical certainty that the karez be replaced," Lu Zhen, former head of water resources research institute in Turpan, told the People's Daily newspaper.
But replaced with what? The city government has installed a pipeline to bring water to some neighborhoods in Turpan, but many people complain that it tastes bad -- like the flavor of medicine.
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The true genius of the karez is its underground location. Water flowing underground cannot be touched by animal droppings or silt, and is protected from its most pertinent enemy: evaporation. Summer temperatures in Turpan can reach a sweltering 110 degrees Fahrenheit.
"Our ancestors were so smart, banding together to solve the water problem," Mr. Nejemdin said, "but these days, being smart is not enough to keep our traditions alive."
For the Uighur people who have lived with the karez water for decades, and have so much pride in its ingenuity, it's likely no other system will ever compare.