Afghanistan's Kabul Basin faces major water challenges

June 16, 2010

In the next 50 years, it is estimated that drinking water needs in the Kabul Basin of Afghanistan may increase sixfold due to population increases resulting from returning refugees. It is also likely that future water resources in the Kabul Basin will be reduced as a result of increasing air temperatures associated with global climate change. These are the findings of a new study conducted by the U.S. Geological Survey.

The study estimates that at least 60 percent of shallow groundwater-supply wells would be affected and may become dry or inoperative as a result of . Groundwater in the basin's less widely used deep aquifer may supply future needs; however, the sustainability of this resource for large withdrawals, such as agricultural uses, is uncertain. Contamination is also a concern in shallow drinking sources in Kabul.

"Water resources in the Kabul Basin are a critical issue for both the people of Afghanistan and U.S. military personnel serving there," said USGS Director Dr. Marcia McNutt. "The work the USGS has done in providing insight about the water situation in the basin can help with future water-resource planning and management efforts and can be applied to other areas of Afghanistan."

This study presents the results of a multidisciplinary water-resources assessment conducted between 2005 and 2007 to address questions of future water availability for a growing population and of the potential effects of climate change.

Although there is considerable uncertainty associated with climate change projections, warming trends forecast for southwest Asia would likely result in adverse changes to recharge patterns and further stresses on limited water resources. Such stresses were simulated to result in 50 percent of shallow groundwater wells in the basin becoming inoperable.

"Investigating water resources in a country affected by war and civil strife — which have left a more than 20-year gap in the scientific record — is challenging," said Thomas Mack, USGS scientist and lead author on the report. "However, our collaborative investigation and the USGS's capacity-building efforts help empower our Afghan colleagues to manage their resources and their future."

The research for this study was conducted in collaboration with the Afghanistan Geological Survey, a division of the Afghanistan Ministry of Mines, and the Afghanistan Ministry of Energy and Water under an agreement with the U.S. Agency for International Development.

"Training with USGS scientists has helped our engineers to modernize their skills and improve their capabilities," said Afghanistan Geological Survey Director Mohammed Omar. "Our engineers are using these improvements as they monitor groundwater levels and water quality in the Kabul Basin."

The study assessed climate trends, water use, surface and groundwater availability and water quality by integrating several forms of data, including surface and groundwater analyses, satellite imagery, geologic investigations, climate change analyses, and estimates of public-supply and agricultural water uses, to provide a comprehensive overview of in this basin.

Explore further: How California Water Supply Could Survive Warming, Growth

More information: The full report can be accessed at pubs.usgs.gov/sir/2009/5262

Related Stories

How California Water Supply Could Survive Warming, Growth

June 15, 2006

In a new report, the UC Davis authors of the most sophisticated analysis of California's water management system say the system should be able to adapt to a warmer climate and a larger population, albeit at a significant ...

Freshwater supplies threatened in central Pacific

August 15, 2007

An international team from The Australian National University, Ecowise Environmental, the Government of the Republic of Kiribati, the French agency CIRAD and the Pacific Islands Applied Geoscience Commission has been studying ...

Climate change goes underground

August 22, 2007

Climate change, a recent “hot topic” when studying the atmosphere, oceans, and Earth’s surface; however, the study of another important factor to this global phenomenon is still very much “underground.” Few scientists ...

21st century water management: Calculating with the unknown

January 31, 2008

Climate change is making a central assumption of water management obsolete: Water-resource risk assessment and planning are currently based on the notion that factors such as precipitation and streamflow fluctuate within ...

Pesticide concentrations decreasing

October 20, 2008

The widespread use of pesticides across the United States has been in practice for decades, with little knowledge of the long-term effects on the nation's groundwater.

Contaminants in groundwater used for public supply

May 21, 2010

More than 20 percent of untreated water samples from 932 public wells across the nation contained at least one contaminant at levels of potential health concern, according to a new study by the U.S. Geological Survey.

Recommended for you

Clues from ancient Maya reveal lasting impact on environment

September 3, 2015

Evidence from the tropical lowlands of Central America reveals how Maya activity more than 2,000 years ago not only contributed to the decline of their environment but continues to influence today's environmental conditions, ...

Climate ups odds of 'grey swan' superstorms

August 31, 2015

Climate change will boost the odds up to 14-fold for extremely rare, hard-to-predict tropical cyclones for parts of Australia, the United States and Dubai by 2100, researchers said Monday.

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.