Thirsty Kabul Expected to Need 600% more Water by 2060

Kabul Afghanistan Water Shortage Wells photo

A man pumps water from a well in Kabul. As many as 50 percent of wells in the Kabul Basin could become inoperative within the next 50 years. Photo by Iain Cochrane via Flickr.
Guest bloggers Andrea Donsky and Randy Boyer are co-founders of

Refugees returning to the Kabul Basin in Afghanistan may face a big problem in the coming decades: a drinking water crisis.

Research from the U.S. Geological Survey estimates that in the next 50 years, the area's drinking water needs will be six times greater than they are today. To compound the problem, water resources in the Kabul Basin are expected to decrease should global climate change cause air temperatures rise. If estimates reach fruition, at least 60 percent of the shallow groundwater supply wells would be affected, and 50 percent are likely to become inoperative. There is a deep aquifer in the Basin, but little is known about the sustainability of the aquifer as large withdrawals are made for agricultural needs, for example.

Though the study focused on the Kabul Basin, the USGS says it has broad implications that may help water-resource management in other parts of Afghanistan as well.

Tricky Research
The multidisciplinary water resources assessment was conducted between 2005 and 2007, and was undertaken to assess the future water availability in the face of a growing population and climate change.

Conducting the study wasn't easy, explains Thomas Mack, a USGS scientist and lead author on the report:

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. However, our collaborative investigation and the USGS's capacity-building efforts help empower our Afghan colleagues to manage their resources and their future.

The USGS collaborated with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and the Afghanistan Ministry of Energy and Water on the project, which combined data from a variety of sources, including surface and groundwater analysis, satellite imagery, climate change analysis, geologic investigation, and estimates of supply and agricultural demand for water in order to paint a picture of the water resources in the Kabul Basin.

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