Skip to main content

Research Repository

Advanced Search

Between a rock and a hard place: A geosocial approach to water insecurity in Kabul

Hamidi, Mohammad Daud; Haenssgen, Marco J.; Vasiljevic, Milica; Greenwell, Hugh Chris; Stevenson, Edward G. J.

Between a rock and a hard place: A geosocial approach to water insecurity in Kabul Thumbnail


Marco J. Haenssgen


Approximately 50% of the global population currently experiences severe water scarcity, a situation likely to intensify due to climate change. At the same time, the poorest population segments bear the greatest burden of water insecurity. This intersection of geophysical, geochemical, and socio-economic dimensions of water (in)security challenges requires a geosocial perspective, one that attends simultaneously to geophysical, geochemical, and socio-economic dimensions. Our qualitative study, conducted through 68 semi-structured interviews across two distinct sub-basins in Kabul, revealed disparities in groundwater levels, water quality, water prices, and lived experiences of water insecurity. While environmental stressors like drought and groundwater contamination contribute to water insecurity, socio-economic factors such as gender and property ownership exacerbate these impacts: Women and children bear a heavy burden of securing water, with children’s involvement in water-fetching leading to instances of violence. Furthermore, trucked water costs 33 times that of piped water, echoing alarming global trends where less privileged communities endure disproportionately greater challenges of water inaccessibility. We outline policy implications for monitoring groundwater abstraction and underscore the need for tailored strategies to combat water scarcity, such as pro-poor water strategies. Additionally, our work draws attention to the role of local gatekeepers who have informally regulated water usage in response to drought-induced scarcity, particularly in the absence of functioning government policies, underscoring the importance of collaboration with local stakeholders to ensure sustainable access to water. We argue that a geosocial approach to water (in)security can provide high-resolution findings and reveal critical gaps between common metrics and the realities of water (in)security, which also underlines the need for integrated approaches incorporating both quantitative and qualitative research.


Hamidi, M. D., Haenssgen, M. J., Vasiljevic, M., Greenwell, H. C., & Stevenson, E. G. J. (2024). Between a rock and a hard place: A geosocial approach to water insecurity in Kabul. Water Security, 22, Article 100177.

Journal Article Type Article
Acceptance Date Jun 14, 2024
Online Publication Date Jun 26, 2024
Publication Date Aug 1, 2024
Deposit Date Jun 27, 2024
Publicly Available Date Jun 27, 2024
Journal Water Security
Print ISSN 2468-3124
Publisher Elsevier
Peer Reviewed Peer Reviewed
Volume 22
Article Number 100177
Public URL