Water is a critical issue in Afghanistan — and for countries like Iran and Pakistan that are dependent on four of the five river basins that flow out of Afghanistan to irrigate their territories. Meanwhile, though the Afghans currently have enough water for their own needs, any perception of abundance is illusory, experts say. Indeed, the availability of water per capita is expected to decline by 50% in the next three decades, according to a U.N.-funded report. Afghanistan’s extremely weak infrastructure and one of the lowest water-storage capacities in the world means that large parts of the country cannot make use of their own water resources. Frequent droughts, localized and national, further affect the population, causing food shortages and migration. In 2008, for example, wheat production declined by 40% to 55% because of lack of precipitation.
Water shortages are a fact of life for billions of people around the world today. The sister-crises of drought and desertification are expected to be major drivers of conflict and state instability in the coming decades. As Afghanistan struggles to secure its space and to evolve from an aid-based economy to a self-sufficient mineral/hydrocarbon producer, it will also have to contend with a lack of this most vital resource.