A shortage of rain and snow, a booming population and wasteful consumption have drained the Afghan capital's water basin and sparked a race to the bottom as households and businesses bore deeper and deeper wells in search of the precious resource.
Every year 80 million cubic meters (2.8 billion cubic feet) of water are extracted from Kabul's aquifers, nearly double the natural recharge rate through precipitation, according to utility Afghanistan Urban Water Supply and Sewerage Corporation.
As a result Kabul's water table has fallen at least 30 meters (100 feet) in recent years, says Asian Development Bank deputy country director Shanny Campbell. Snow has fallen in the city this month but it is not nearly enough to solve the water shortage, in some areas the level has dropped 20 meters in the past year. "The problem we have in Kabul is the massive increase in population, impact of climate change and overall less precipitation and snowfall," Campbell explains.
Kabul's population has more than doubled to around five million in the past 30 years, boosted by the arrival of people fleeing war and poverty. It is expected to reach eight million by 2050, according to a report published in the Washington-based SAIS Review of International Affairs in 2017.