The United Nations has stated that water scarcity — not war — is a rising cause for displacement in Afghanistan. There are 1.5 million Afghans, approximately 4 percent of the population, that are displaced and 448,000 were added in 2017 alone. The U.S. Geological Survey has stated that the groundwater level has, on average, declined by 1.4 mm between 2004-2012, and 22 of Afghanistan’s 34 provinces are facing drought today. According to the United Nations Mission in Afghanistan (UNAMA), only 27 percent of the Afghan population has access to safe drinking water and 37 percent use sanitation facilities.
Water Scarcity or Crisis?
There are very real ground realities indicating water scarcity; however, in aggregate terms, Afghanistan has an adequate amount of water. There are approximately five major river basins in the state — Amu Darya, Harirud-Murghab, Helmand, Kabul, and Northern — and altogether these are estimated to provide 75 billion cubic meters (BCM) of accessible water. According to Cooperation for Peace and Unity, this averages out to 3,063.1 cubic meters per capita. Furthermore, the Afghanistan National Development Strategy has listed the present usage as 19.08 BCM — which is merely 33 percent of total surface water.