The United States (U.S.) Geological Survey has been working with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and the Afghanistan Ministry of Energy and Water on water-resources investigations in the Kabul Basin under an agreement supported by the United States Agency for International Development. This collaborative investigation compiled, to the extent possible in a war-stricken country, a varied hydrogeologic data set and developed limited data-collection networks to assist with the management of water resources in the Kabul Basin. This report 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.
Most hydrologic and climatic data-collection activities in Afghanistan were interrupted in the early 1980s as a consequence of war and civil strife and did not resume until 2003 or later. Because of the gap of more than 20 years in the record of hydrologic and climatic observations, this investigation has made considerable use of remotely sensed data and, where available, historical records to investigate the water resources of the Kabul Basin. Specifically, this investigation integrated recently acquired remotely sensed data and satellite imagery, including glacier and climatic data; recent climate-change analyses; recent geologic investigations; analysis of streamflow data; groundwater-level analysis; surface-water- and groundwater-quality data, including data on chemical and isotopic environmental tracers; and estimates of public-supply and agricultural water uses. The data and analyses were integrated by using a simplified groundwater-flow model to test the conceptual model of the hydrologic system and to assess current (2007) and future (2057) water availability.
Recharge in the basin is spatially and temporally variable and generally occurs near streams and irrigated areas in the late winter and early spring. In irrigated areas near uplands or major rivers, the annual recharge rate may be about 1.2 ? 10-3 meters per year; however, in areas at lower altitude with little irrigation, the recharge rate may average about 0.7 ? 10-3 meters per year. With increasing population, the water needs of the Kabul Basin are estimated to increase from 112,000 cubic meters per day to about 725,000 cubic meters per day by the year 2057. In some areas of the basin, particularly in the north along the western mountain front and near major rivers, water resources are generally adequate for current needs. In other areas of the basin, such as in the east and away from major rivers, the available water resources may not meet future needs. On the basis of the model simulations, increasing withdrawals are likely to result in declining water levels that may cause more than 50 percent of shallow (typically less than 50 meters deep) supply wells to become dry or inoperative. The water quality in the shallow (less than 100 meters thick), unconsolidated primary aquifer has deteriorated in urban areas because of poor sanitation. Concerns about water availability may be compounded by poor well-construction practices and lack of planning.
Future water resources of the Kabul Basin will likely be reduced as a result of increasing air temperatures associated with global climate change. It is estimated that at least 60 percent of shallow groundwater-supply wells would be affected and may become dry or inoperative as a result of climate change. These effects of climate change would likely be greatest in the agricultural areas adjacent to the Paghman Mountains where a majority of springs, karezes, and wells would be affected. The water available in the shallow primary aquifer of the basin may meet future water needs in the northern areas of the Kabul Basin near the Panjsher River. Conceptual groundwater-flow simulations indicate that the basin likely has groundwater reserves in unused unconsolidate