Sustainable Water and Wastewater Management

Water is a scarce commodity in many Afghan urban and rural areas. While Afghanistan has made large strides in expanding water supply in recent years, the majority of the urban population still does not have access to clean drinking water. The rural population draws water from wells and watercourses or has to buy it from water tankers. These scarce water resources are increasingly overused and polluted.


The wastewater management situation and thus sanitary conditions are also poor in many places. Waterborne diseases are responsible for more than one in every four deaths of children under five years of age.

Shortcomings in the structure and management of the water sector are one reason for this situation. Various state institutions are responsible for water supply and wastewater disposal. Responsibilities and work processes are often not well enough coordinated, and interfaces and opportunities for information management are not leveraged. People working for public authorities often lack the knowledge and organisational structures they would need to operate infrastructure in a technically sound manner, and ensure efficient hydrological planning and sustainable integrated water resources management.


Water authorities and responsible institutions in Afghanistan are enabled to guarantee better urban water supply and wastewater disposal. Sustainable integrated water resources management is developed and cooperation among responsible institutions is stepped up.

Measures and Results

The Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH supports Afghan water sector institutions in operating existing infrastructure competently to meet needs and in sustainably managing available water resources. The programme builds the technical capacities of the staff and enhances operations at all hierarchical levels inside the institutions, thus helping put in place and develop institutional and organisational structures. Cooperation focuses on Kabul and Herat, from where authorities in other parts of the country are also supported.

Sustainable use of water resources

Together with the Ministry of Energy and Water and other responsible institutions, the programme team is working to develop guidelines and methods to ensure sustainable water use. Continuous monitoring of the groundwater level provides a foundation for targeted water management efforts. The project team has thus established a groundwater monitoring system in Kabul in the past few years, which is now being rolled out in other regions too. In Herat, interaction among water authorities is being piloted to make work processes more efficient and to advance information sharing.

The programme is working with MEW and five river basin agencies to develop water policy frameworks for all five Afghan river basins. These plans identify how much water people in a region currently need and how much they will need in the future for different purposes including farming, industry and to supply the population. The results are compared and contrasted with the available water resources. Water policy frameworks serve as the groundwork for effective and efficient investment planning in the water sector. This includes building irrigation channels and dams and establishing an urban groundwater supply system. The project supports the Afghan authorities during the planning phase.

Training for better wastewater disposal

The programme team is training staff on technical and organisational issues so that responsible authorities can improve wastewater disposal. In the past few years, several wastewater disposal divisions have been established, for instance within AUWSSC and MUDL. The project is working with these divisions to introduce data gathering in the wastewater disposal sector, and to develop a wastewater disposal master plan for Herat, which is to serve as a model for other cities.

Expanding water supply - improving service

Water utilities have to be financially viable in order to expand the water

supply and improve service. The programme team thus advises and trains AUWSSC staff on technical and commercial issues. It supports AUWSSC in increasing the number of household connections, installing more water meters, reducing pipeline water losses, issuing water bills more consistently and demanding payment of unpaid bills. Only then can they better cover their operating costs.

A training system for technicians employed by utilities is being set up to improve the operation and maintenance of water infrastructure. AUWSSC and its six regional water utilities now operate about 150,000 household connections. These provide clean drinking water to around 1.5 million people in Afghanistan’s towns and cities.

At a glance

Water Sector Improvement Programme (WSIP)
Commissioned by:
German Federal Ministry for Economic Cooperation and Development (BMZ)
Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation (AUWSSC), Ministry of Urban Development and Land (MUDL), Ministry of Energy and Water (MEW), National Environmental Protection Agency (NEPA), Ministry of Economy (MoEC)
Implementing organisations:
Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH
Herat, Kabul
Programme objective:
To enable institutions responsible for the water sector to guarantee better drinking water supply and wastewater disposal
Overall term:
October 2008 – June 2022