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QANAT GROUNDWATER INFRASTRUCTURES AND SUSTAINABILITY IN ARID REGIONS

R. H. Gomis, R. L. Stevens, I. Haidari, A. H. Lashkaryee, S. A. Mortazavi
Wednesday 19 December 2018 by Libadmin2018

ABSTRACT

Qanats (or karez) are ancient, sub-horizontal, underground water tunnels that have served over centuries as main water-supply systems in arid and semi-arid regions, in particular the Middle East and North Africa. In today’s fragile contexts, water scarcity plays an important role in these regions. Quantitative hydrogeological analyses, such as groundwater maps, are needed for water management plans and sustainable development. As part of a knowledge exchange program and with the participation of young Afghan refugees, analyses of Google Earth satellite imagery in three study areas in southeastern Afghanistan allowed the location of hundreds of qanats. The main aim of this study was to test the use alluvial-fan qanats to derive groundwater elevations based on the depth of the Mother Well (located highest on the fan slope). In addition to tapping groundwater, we observed that qanats could be used for water transport along the valleys, connecting with other qanats or collecting, expanding and distributing the discharge of surface water or natural springs. The water depths of the Mother Well allowed us to estimate the groundwater elevations for the dry season or drought period when they were excavated, although there are important uncertainties for some sites. Seasonality plays a major role on qanat discharge, as does their location within the basin drainage. As a result of this study, a database of groundwater levels has been initiated using qanats in Afghanistan. This database needs to be expanded by combining geographic and climatic information that would allow modeling of water basins, the vulnerability of qanats to climate change and changes due to aquifer pumping, among other threats. In conclusion, although qanat discharge has declined over the past century, UNESCO has valued them in the context of World cultural heritage. The practicality and simplicity of Qanats need to be reconsidered for new applications in the modern world as well as by the scientific community for issues that can be addressed with this ancient but highly relevant technology and record of groundwater conditions.

Keywords: qanat, karez, groundwater, water resources, arid regions, rural water supply, rural development.


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