CSIRO is building the Government of Afghanistan’s capacity to develop a national water information program.

The challenge

Establishing an information base

Afghanistan is facing an acute water crisis. Decades of conflict, prolonged drought, climate change, increasing population, urbanisation, periods of missing water data and deterioration of infrastructure have hindered the ability of the nation’s water sector to advance. Projected increases in population growth and climate change are likely to exacerbate water demands and scarcities.

CSIRO is building the Government of Afghanistan’s capacity to develop a national water information program.  © Pixabay

The Government of Afghanistan is attempting reform. Its 2018 Water Sector Strategy adopted an integrated water resources management (IWRM) approach to water management.

An amendment to the 2009 Water Law is set to decentralise management of water resources to the river basin and catchment scale. Unfortunately, a clear lack of reliable information on economic, environment and social issues related to the water sector, including water resources and uses, infrastructures, and performances of services has hindered investors’ interest in Afghanistan’s water sector (about five percent of development funding went to the water sector over the past decade).

The technical modelling required to inform basin planning for water-related decision making is complex and time-consuming in a data-limited environment like Afghanistan and these can act as barriers to investment in the water sector. Decision-makers are unable to make decisions on equitable water allocations as they lack a basic understanding of what water is available, how much is stored, used and needed, where and when.

Our response

Strategies to improve water information management

Building on our globally recognised expertise in water information management and water reform, we are facilitating Afghanistan inter-agency dialogue to coordinate water-related data and information management (including governance and curation); establishing a clear understanding of the objectives and requirement of a water information system in line with the new national water sector strategy and law; teaching officials on how to use decision support tools to generate and assess water development scenarios to deal with climatic, socioeconomic or environmental uncertainty; and drafting a national water information program roadmap.

The results

Water information systems roadmap

The initiative has produced a critical pool of dedicated trained water champions in the Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW) and Ministry of Agriculture, Irrigation and Livestock (MAIL) in Afghanistan through co-learning and co-generation of knowledge.

CSIRO and its local and Australian partners have developed a strategic pathway (roadmap) for implementation of a water information systems based on an extensive review of relevant policies, plans and reports and technical consultation, and informed by Australia’s journey to develop and maintain the world-class Australian Water Resource Information System.

These results will support the Government of Afghanistan to transition from project-based short-term investments to sustainable investment in a water information program that can become integrated into the operations of a relevant line ministry. Australia’s relatively small investment in the area of water resources has added value to the management of water resources and offered a clearly differentiated and identifiable offering. Further value can be achieved through ongoing investment to develop a prototype water information system to support the long-term development of Afghanistan’s water information program.

About SDIP

This work is part of a portfolio of investments supported by the Australian Government addressing the regional challenges of water, food and energy security in South Asia.

The SDIP Phase 2 aims to improve the integrated management of water, energy and food in the Himalayan river basins, addressing climate risk and the interests of women and girls. It seeks to:

  • strengthen practices for regional cooperation
  • generate and use critical new knowledge to enhance regional cooperation
  • improve the regional enabling environment for private sector engagement.

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