Afghanistan Groundwater

Hydrogeology Department
Ministry of Energy and Water
Islamic Republic of Afghanistan

WAPECA Building, Airport Road, Kabul
GW Policy

Groundwater Policy of Afghanistan (Draft)


Background: ​
Groundwater is the primary source of drinking water. It has also been used to support agriculture. About 20% land is being irrigated by groundwater resources from traditional underground systems such as karezes (Qanats), springs and shallow wells (locally called as Arhads). Due to lack of comprehensive database and extensive monitoring system, it is difficult to say whether groundwater is being used sustainably or not. Afghanistan has an annual potential of about 20 BCM of groundwater. At present its use is not that much but it is expected to increase due to irrigation and water supply demand.

Need for Policy: ​
Groundwater is an important natural resource. It is not only vital for human life but also for maintaining ecological balance.
It should be utilized as much as possible and managed in an integrated manner from national perspectives. Though various ministries of Afghanistan are involved in the management of water resources, there is no institution to monitor groundwater level, its quality and extraction.
In general, there are at least four main groundwater problems to be solved:
i. The danger of exhaustion of groundwater reserves, now or in the future
ii. Falling water tables, rising costs of pumping and land subsidence
iii. Salinization due to rising water tables
iv. Loss of ability due to pollution.

Its uses should be optimal, economical and equitable. A systematic approach has become necessary for the planning, development and management of this precious resource. In order to address it, this policy is formulated and is based on the principle of integrated water resources management.

Guiding Principles: ​
1. Ownership in the state
2. Development based on conservation
3. No adverse impact on environment
4. Economic use
5. Priority for drinking/domestic use
6. People’s participation and equal right
7. No charge unless stated in law

Objectives: ​
1. To conserve sources of groundwater.
2. To optimize the use for groundwater for livelihood and economic growth.
3. To manage groundwater resource effectively in an integrated manner.

Main Policy


Groundwater Right: ​
The ownership of groundwater vests in the state. Its user right can be given to the provinces and further down to local authorities, communities and to individuals.

Institutional Arrangement: ​
Government institutions such as River Basin Agencies or Water Management Departments will be designated for monitoring the groundwater level, groundwater quality and extraction, if needed for licensing also.

Information Center/System ​​​
In addition to other water related documents in the documentation center of River Basin Agencies/Water Management Departments, a computer based groundwater resource information system will be established in order to provide easy access to groundwater resources availability and uses in the concerned basins.

Water Use Priority ​
Groundwater is available in most of the places, but needs energy to abstract. Among the aquifers, shallow aquifers are easy to recharge and less costly to use, whereas deeper aquifers are not that easy and rather costly. People will be encouraged to use shallow tube wells unless the deep tube wells are necessary. Drinking water and domestic use should be given top priority.

Licensing ​
Groundwater is a common good and the people have right to use it for their basic needs. Any individual or the group of people can use groundwater without any license for survival. Use of groundwater for commercial purposes should be under license. License will be issued as per law. Nation can charge fee for commercial use.

Appropriate Use of Groundwater
Any type of tube well: shallow/medium/deep can be constructed. Economical and environmental aspects should be taken into consideration. Groundwater withdrawal should not be more than the annual recharge. It should be used in such a way that there will not be any overdraft. If it crosses the limit in some dry period it has to be replenished in following wet period.

Participatory Approach ​
As people should always be in the center of concern, they should be involved in every step of groundwater resources activity. All gender’s participation should be right from planning, design and implementation to operation and maintenance of groundwater resources development. Their knowledge, experience and opinion should be utilized in groundwater projects. Their financial and/or physical participation will promote ownership and public private partnership.

Eco-efficient Groundwater Infra-structures ​
In addition to technical soundness of the groundwater infrastructures, they should be economically viable and environment friendly. In the context of climate change, this aspect is much more of a concern and should be addressed very carefully.

Conservation/Protection of Groundwater ​
Groundwater conservation/protection will be done in every river basin. Groundwater recharging areas will be kept intact in order to allow enough infiltration. Injection of effluent into the ground will be prohibited.

Rainwater Harvesting for Artificial Recharge ​
In water shortage areas, the rainwater harvesting techniques will be used to collect water for artificial recharge to replenish the groundwater reservoirs.

Economic Use and No Wastage ​
Groundwater should be used economically and the wastage of groundwater should be discouraged.

Working Policy/Action ​
i. Investigations of groundwater will be done in a systematic way.
ii. Data and reports will be collected and safely stored.
iii. Identification of groundwater reservoirs will be made.
iv. Hydrogeological database will be created.
v. Management Information System will be established.
vi. Land resources will be properly utilized.
vii. Encroachment in the forest will be prohibited.
viii. Reforestation will be done in vulnerable area.
ix. Groundwater pumping will be allowed only up to the permissible limit.
x. Existing groundwater structures will be protected and maintained.
xi. Rainwater harvesting structures will be constructed.
xii. People awareness campaign will be carried out.
xiii. Conjunctive use of groundwater and surface water will be promoted.
xiv. Farmers will be trained for appropriate type and pattern of the crops as per water availability.
xv. Drinking water and hygiene program will be conducted together.
xvi. New techniques for reuse and recycle will be promoted.

Amendment ​
This policy will be reviewed periodically and amended if necessary as per requirement.