Afghanistan faces tremendous stresses internally and is at a critical point in water resources development, since the newly rehabilitated and reconstructed infrastructure is insufficient to meet the growing demands of the communities for domestic/industrial water supply, hydropower and irrigation.

There is considerable seasonal variability in rainfall and runoff, with frequent droughts and floods. Hence, investing in infrastructure for water storage and delivery is vital for securing long-term water supplies and retaining floodwaters to support economic development and poverty reduction.

In this project, SEI is integrating an economic analysis with a WEAP (Water Evaluation and Planning) application for the Kabul and Panjamu River Basins, to compare a set of potential water investments across scenarios of water management and climate.

“In Afghanistan, there is so much uncertainty about the future, that it is really crucial to identify the key challenges that need to be address, and to figure out which development pathways are or aren’t viable,” says Laura Forni, an economist in SEI’s Davis, Calif., office.

Looking at all the options

In order to explore the widest range of possible management options, the WEAP applications developed will be run as part of a large ensemble experiment (LEE) for robust decision-making (RDM). The goal is to enhance and support the adoption of Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) in Afghanistan.

“Afghanistan has serious water constraints, and in trying to allocate water to different sectors, it can be difficult to prioritize because there is so much we don’t know about the tradeoffs”, Forni says. “That is why this exercise is so valuable, because it allows us to explore a wide range of possible choices.

“Do we want to focus more on agriculture? On energy production? On the urban water supply? There are real resource conflicts here, and significant tradeoffs with any allocation,” Forni adds. “Thus the best we can do is to provide a range of  scenarios for policy-makers to evaluate and choose the path that seems to bring the greatest benefits overall.”

This project is sponsored by the World Bank, in cooperation with the Ministry of Energy and Water in Afghanistan and Landell Mills Development Consultants.