Water Crisis in Kabul Could Be Severe If Not Addressed

The Kabul River Basin, which accounts for 35% of the country’s population, is the most important river basin of Afghanistan [I]. Kabul is the fifth fastest growing city in the world and among the world’s most water-stressed cities [II, III]. Its population in mid-2014 was estimated at 4.5 million and is expected to increase to about 8 million by 2050. The total population of the Kabul Metropolitan Area (KMA) is projected to be 6.74 million by 2025 with 1.5 million in the new city. Water demand in the new city is projected to be 96.1MCM/year including industrial water use. With an improving standard of living and a projected population of 9 million by 2057, an estimated six-fold water consumption increase in the Kabul Basin was simulated in the groundwater-flow model described by Mack et al. (IV). The KfW study (V) estimated 123.4 million m3/year of water demand for the Kabul city in 2015. The study estimated the groundwater potential is approximately 44 million m3/year, capable to cover only 2 million inhabitants at a modest per capita consumption of 50 LCDP (V).

During the late 1990s, there were several years with extremely little precipitation, and in 2001, only 175 mm of precipitation was reported for Kabul (VI). Net groundwater recharge from direct precipitation in the Kabul Basin is generally near zero on an annual basis. Banks and Soldal (VI) reported groundwater-level decreases of 4–6 m in Kabul during the drought period of 1998–2002 and as much as 10 m in some areas. Groundwater-level decreases of 6–7 m was reported between the 1960s and early 2000s for some parts of the city (VII). Safi (VIII) reports that water levels in the surficial sedimentary aquifer in the city of Kabul had decreased by about 10 m between 1982 and 2005 because of increased water use. The water-level decreases noted by these studies in the city of Kabul, in the early to mid-2000s, likely represent both the widespread effect of drought in the Kabul Basin and locally the effects of increased water use (IV).

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