Partnership enables USGS to help assess water resources in Afghanistan

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Aug. 22, 2014 -- For the past decade, U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) scientists have shared their expertise with the Afghanistan Geological Survey (AGS) in efforts to establish an inventory of Afghanistan's water resources. As such, a new fact sheet details how these efforts help the country quantify and monitor these resources.

"This partnership with the Afghanistan Geological Survey and other international agencies is extremely important for Afghanistan," said Jack Medlin, USGS regional specialist, Asia and Pacific Region. "There's a broad consensus that water availability is a global issue, and these collaborative efforts created the data collection networks necessary to help quantify water conditions in the region and manage future water supplies."

A number of success stories were realized during this decade-long partnership. In 2004, USGS and AGS initiated plans to rebuild Afghanistan's capacity for various geologic sciences, including hydrology. USGS accomplished the goal by teaching scientists from AGS to apply modern techniques for use of global positioning systems (GPS), field hydrology, and water quality sampling, as well as by developing water resource databases.

The first efforts of the partnership were to inventory groundwater and surface water resources in Afghanistan's capital city, Kabul. After inventorying about 150 wells in the first year, data from a subset of wells were monitored over 10 years and indicated that water levels were decreasing in the city of Kabul. The water samples collected and analyzed for physical, chemical and microbiological properties formed the basis of the first joint hydrologic investigation in Kabul.

"Now after 10 years of groundwater-level monitoring, recent analysis of the data shows an improved understanding of groundwater resources and its sustainability in Kabul," said Thomas Mack, USGS hydrologist. "AGS engineers have established similar groundwater monitoring networks in other major cities across Afghanistan, which are critical for understanding current conditions and water availability at other population and economic centers."

USGS assisted a World Bank effort to restore approximately 127 historical streamgages in Afghanistan with modern equipment and continues to monitor the country's hydrologic network. Further, the USGS helped establish the Afghanistan Agrometerology Program at the start of the partnership. By 2014, the program had installed and was operating 102 stations recording precipitation amounts, snow cover and other meteorological parameters that are crucial for calibrating and validating remote sensing models of Afghanistan.

A focus of the most recent research was to quantify and monitor water resources in the Chakari Basin, a watershed near Kabul and an area that contains considerable copper and other mineral resources. "Understanding the water and mineral resources of the Chakari Basin is important for Afghanistan's economic development and for balancing the needs of domestic and industrial water users," said Michael Chornack, USGS hydrologist.

See also:

"USGS scientists publish new papers on water resources information"

"USGS celebrates 50th anniversary of Water Resources Research Act"

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