Strengthening Water Resources Management in Afghanistan (SWaRMA)

Through its national strategic policy framework for the water sector, Afghanistan has adopted a river basin approach to managing its water resources.

Agricultural village west Afghanistan

Agricultural villages like this one in west Afghanistan are directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods so sustainable management of water resources is critical (Source: U.S. Air Force photo/Master Sgt. Michael O’Connor)


The river basins of Afghanistan provide valuable ecosystem services that sustain the lives and livelihoods of about 36 million people. These basins play a key role in driving agriculture, the largest economic driver of the nation, and tapping into the significant potential for water infrastructure development. With 80% of the population directly dependent on natural resources for their livelihoods, sustainable management is critical. Population growth and climate change pressures reinforce the need to make the best use of limited water resources.

Major river basins of Afghanistan

Major river basins of Afghanistan

The governments of Afghanistan and Australia initiated the project, Strengthening Water Resources Management in Afghanistan (SWaRMA) to enhance Afghanistan government agencies’ technical capacity for effective water resources management, adaptation and development planning, and regional cooperation.

The challenge

Afghanistan faces significant water challenges. Decades of conflict, prolonged drought, climate change, increasing population, urbanisation, periods of missing water data and deterioration of infrastructures 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.

The technical modelling required to inform basin planning, 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.

Our aims

Afghanistan’s national strategic policy framework for the water sector adopted a river basin approach to improve water resource management. The project is implemented by the Commonwealth Scientific and Industrial Research Organisation (CSIRO) and International Centre for Integrated Mountain Development (ICIMOD) in partnership with other water sector agencies in Afghanistan and Australia and aims to strengthen Afghanistan’s capacity for integrated river basin management.

The project team will support the Afghan government to develop and maintain river basin water information systems and models that are able to assist in evidence-based decision making in the water sector.

Members of the project, Strengthening Water Resource Management in Afghanistan, met in July 2018

Members of the project, Strengthening Water Resource Management in Afghanistan, met in July 2018

Our response

Integrated river basin management (IRBM) has been identified as a necessary framework to plan and implement water sector projects in Afghanistan. CSIRO and its Australian partners are strengthening the capacity of water resources planners and managers in Afghanistan on issues related to:

  • linking water and the environment in IRBM
  • scenario based planning to tackle uncertainty
  • sharing basin planning experience from Australia.

The CSIRO team aim to build the technical capacity of Afghanistan to progress toward detailed basin planning through training in water balance and scenario modelling using eWater Source.

The training sessions will include:

  • co-development of models of selected basins in Afghanistan
  • capacity building to set up and run a model to undertake basin assessment (data needs, conceptualisation and assumptions)
  • training to understand the current use, demand and dynamics of water resources
  • establishment of scenarios to explore the development potential of water resources.

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

The implementation of improved water management technologies and the associated capacity building is supporting a productive and water secure Afghanistan.

Project leader: Dr Shahriar Wahid


Afghanistan emblem

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About SDIP

This SDIP 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 SDIP2 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 regional enabling environment for private sector engagement.

More reports, fact sheets and information about SWaRMA are available on the SDIP publications page

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