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Afghanistan is part of:
Asia & Pacific · Middle East ·
Water Basins of Afghanistan:
Amu Darya · Aral Sea · Hari-Harirud · Helmand · Indus · Kowl-E-Namaksar · Murgab · Tarim · Vahksh ·
Facts & Figures edit
Capital Kabul
Neighbouring Countries China, Iran, Pakistan, Tajikistan, Turkmenistan, Uzbekistan
Total Area 647,500 km2
  - Water 0 km2 (0.00%) / 0 m2/ha
  - Land 647,500 km2
Coastline 0 km
Population 29,863,010 (46 inhab./km2)
HDIA 0.229 (2007)
Gini CoefficientA (1995)
Nominal GDPB $9,596 million
GDP (PPP) Per CapitaB $800
Land UseC
  - Cultivated Land 79,902 km2 (12.34%)
     - Arable 78,542 km2 (12.13%)
     - Permanent Crops 1,360 km2 (0.21%)
     - Irrigated 27,200 km2
  - Non cultivated 567,599 km2 (75%)
Average Annual RainfallD 327 mm
Renewable Water ResourcesE 65 km3
Water WithdrawalsF 23.26 km3/yr
  - For Agricultural Use 98%
  - For Domestic Use 2%
  - For Industrial Use 0%
  - Per Capita 980 m3
Population with safe access to
  - Improved Water Source 39%
     - Urban population 63%
     - Rural population 31%
  - Improved Sanitation 34%
     - Urban population 49%
     - Rural population 29%
References & Remarks
A UNDP Human Development Report
B CIA World Factbook and Wikipedia
C CIA World Factbook Country Profiles
D Aquastat - FAO's Information System on Water and Agriculture
E CIA World Factbook
F Earthtrends

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Country Profile: Climate, Geography, Socio-Economic Context

Afghanistan has variable climactic conditions and is vulnerable to both drought and flooding. Eighty percent of the country’s water resources come from snowmelt from the Hindu Kush mountains and are contained in three major watersheds. Many areas of the country are prone to annual flooding, which causes loss of life, farmland, villages, and infrastructure.

Country Profile: Water Bodies and Resources

Afghanistan has internal renewable water resources of 55 cubic kilometers per year. Roughly 85% of water used in Afghanistan is tapped from rivers, with the balance from springs, karezes (man-made underground tunnels delivering water by gravity), and dug wells. A limited number of reservoirs are available to store water. Due in large measure to water shortages, only half of the country’s arable land is cultivated in a given year. Eleven percent of the country has no water resources.

Country-wide, Afghanistan’s water resources are vulnerable to contamination from human waste, dumpsites, and chemicals. Twenty-five percent of the country’s available water is considered safe for drinking. Thirty-one percent of households have access to safe drinking water.

Eighty-five percent of all agricultural output is derived from irrigated land. Irrigation has a very low (25%) efficiency rating. Most recent estimates suggest that sufficient groundwater exists for irrigation and water supply in several parts of the country, although, with the advent of diesel wells, a drop in the water table has caused concern. The quality of groundwater varies, with saline water in the north and contaminated water in the urban and peri-urban areas.

Tenure Issues

The 2009 Water Law reaffirms that water is public property and the government holds management authority over the resource. Water is free, although costs of investment and provision of services can be charged by service providers. The Water Law states that suitable water-use traditions and customs will be considered in fulfilling the rights of water users.

Land ownership (individual and communal) in Afghanistan generally includes rights to surface and ground water, although regional differences exist, and in some areas water rights transfer by separate deed. About 80% of irrigation systems are traditional and managed by local communities. Modern irrigation systems are mostly under state control.

The 2009 Water Law reaffirms that water is public property and the government holds management authority over the resource. Water is free, although costs of investment and provision of services can be charged by service providers. The Water Law states that suitable water-use traditions and customs will be considered in fulfilling the rights of water users.

Land ownership transfers generally include water rights. Water rights are included in village land grants. People may also acquire rights to water through a separate agreement that is independent of land rights. In some areas, wealthier members of a community provide poorer members with access to water. In other areas, lack of strong community leadership over management of water has resulted in conflict among groups over the resource.

Women have limited participation in irrigated agriculture and water management. Access to water depends on the location of the land, social and cultural norms, and operational requirements of the water systems. Women tend to have less access to training, less information, and less freedom to participate in water and other resource programs. When women have rights to land, they are often restricted to use rights that may not include water rights.

Country Profile: Legal and Institutional Environment

Legal Framework

Afghanistan’s new Water Law became effective in April 2009 and is one component of the country’s strategy to integrate its water systems and institutions. The Water Law adopted a river basin approach under which natural river basin boundaries (versus administrative boundaries) govern all aspects of natural resources management and planning.

Customary law tends to govern the use of water on private land and in private systems, the resolution of conflicts over water, and water resource conservation. Customary law generally governs allocation of water through the kaerez system, which is constructed and maintained on a community basis.

Institutional Framework

The Ministry of Energy and Water has had de facto responsibility for water resource management, including irrigation canals. The Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Livestock has had de jure authority for managing irrigation and drainage systems. The Water Law formalizes these roles, assigning the Ministry of Energy and Water overall responsibility for planning, management, and development of water resources, and giving the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock responsibility for irrigation.

Traditionally, water resources are governed at the village level. Each village has a mirab who delegates authority to sub-water masters. Water is distributed according to local tradition and agreements between farmers, the mirab, and local government. Village elders customarily handle water disputes, applying customary law; residents are generally reluctant to involve local officials for fear of losing control of the result and the resource.

In some regions, military commanders have taken control of water resources. The exercise of military authority over water undermines local traditional authority and can cause conflict with water users adversely affected by the military decisions.

Government Reforms, Interventions and Investments

Afghanistan’s Strategic Policy Framework for the Water Sector, approved by the Supreme Council for Water Affairs Management (SCWAM) in 2006, called for: the revised Water Law; regulations governing water use and irrigation; charter and internal regulations for Water User Associations; a national water supply and sanitation policy; and a hydropower development policy. The strategy has three major components: (1) a plan for integrated water resources management; (2) a river basin approach in which natural boundaries will govern management of water resources; and (3) the division of functions into the Ministry’s legal and policy functions, the river basin management’s organizational functions, and the operational functions exercised by operators and service providers.

The Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW)’s activities have included: developing training programs to improve capacity within the Ministry; coordinating with other stakeholders in the public sector to reach agreement on how to implement the new administrative structure based on the river basin approach; delineation of sub-basins within each river basin; and reorganization of MEW’s headquarters in Kabul. The MEW called for assistance from donors to help strengthen the Ministry’s capacity and coordinate donor efforts in the water sector.

Country Profile: Water Sector Coordination

See Sector coordination sub-page for detailed description

Country Profile: Trends in Water Use, Management and Sanitation

Country Profile: Challenges and Opportunities

Donor Interventions and Investments

USAID is working with the Department of Irrigation in the Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) on improving irrigation systems, the governance of water resources, and the development of micro-hydropower plants. USAID sponsored a meeting of 50 mirabs to facilitate discussion designed to improve collective water use and allow mirabs to learn from each other’s experiences. USAID is also supporting improvement of irrigation infrastructure (reservoirs, dams, and irrigation canals), and development of micro-hydropower plants that harness the energy of moving water to provide villages with electricity. USAID also supports urban water departments (such as the Mazar Water Supply Department) through its implementing partner, the International City/County Management Association (ICMA), as part of the Afghanistan Water and Sanitation Activity (CAWSA) Project. The project helps water-supply departments provide water to more neighborhoods, improve water quality, and enhance operating efficiency.

Several international organizations have worked to improve Afghanistan’s water sector. Development of water resources is one of three focal areas for ADB’s country partnership strategy for Afghanistan. ADB has helped establish river basin authorities, strengthened irrigation management, and developed new infrastructure. The European Commission has been implementing water projects in northeastern Afghanistan that include rehabilitation and upgrading of irrigation systems, strengthening community management of irrigation, and creating a river basin agency. The World Bank has funded the rehabilitation and upgrading of irrigation systems throughout the country.

The Water and Sanitation Programme of the Danish Committee for Aid to Afghan Refugees (DACAAR) has installed more than 36,000 water points in remote districts in 26 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces, benefiting approximately five million people. The program integrates hygiene education and promotion of hygienic sanitation facilities with the installation of improved drinking water systems.


Recently updated articles on Afghanistan
  1. Image:RycroftWegerich 2009 three bling spots of Afghanistan.PDF ‎(967 views) . . Aigerim D
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Projects and Case Studies

Projects in or about Afghanistan

(this is a list of the 15 most recently updated entries. To see all projects click here)

  1. Amu Darya Assessment of Environment and Security Linkages and Impact ‎(4,539 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Restoration, Protection and Sustainable Use of the Sistan Lakes Basin ‎(2,583 views) . . Katy.norman
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  4. Cross Border Impacts of Vahksh River Basin Development ‎(3,282 views) . . WikiBot
  5. ENVSEC/UNEP - Environment & security assessment and capacity-building in the Amu-Darya river basin ‎(3,095 views) . . WikiBot
  6. Amu Darya Water Quality Assessment and Management ‎(6,397 views) . . WikiBot

Case studies in or about Afghanistan

(by popularity)

  1. Lessons on Cooperation Building to Manage Water Conflicts in the Aral Sea Basin ‎(7,296 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented projects in Afghanistan


5 most recently updated publications on Afghanistan
  1. WB 2004 - Water Resource Development in Northern Afghanistan and Its Implications for Amu Darya Basin ‎(2,427 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. Water Strategy Meets Local Reality ‎(2,314 views) . . Aigerim D
  3. Lessons on Cooperation Building to Manage Water Conflicts in the Aral Sea Basin ‎(7,296 views) . . Katy.norman

5 most popular publications on Afghanistan
  1. Lessons on Cooperation Building to Manage Water Conflicts in the Aral Sea Basin ‎(7,296 views) . . Katy.norman
  2. WB 2004 - Water Resource Development in Northern Afghanistan and Its Implications for Amu Darya Basin ‎(2,427 views) . . Katy.norman
  3. Water Strategy Meets Local Reality ‎(2,314 views) . . Aigerim D

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented publications on Afghanistan

Who is Who

People working in Afghanistan

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See the complete list of Waterwiki users working in Afghanistan

Organizations working in Afghanistan
  1. FAO/Afghanistan ‎(2,595 views) . . WikiBot
  2. CAREC - Central Asian Regional Economic Cooperation ‎(8,436 views) . . Katy.norman

See the complete list of WaterWiki documented organizations in Afghanistan


See also

External Resources

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