News: RC South water management team makes waves in Arghandab
Story by Sgt. Ruth Pagan
By: Sgt. Benjamin T. Shutt
Security Force Assistance Team 4
4th Infantry Division
ARGHANDAB, Afghanistan – Navy Cmdr. Kurt Birkhahn, the regional command representative for water infrastructure development, visited the Arghandab District Center in an effort to help increase and execute sustainable government-led water management projects throughout Regional Command South, July 20.
Birkhahn and his team of associates provided the District Development Assembly with information on water infrastructure and promoted increased partnership with the Directorate of Agriculture, Irrigation, and Land. Birkhahn also met with DAIL and with members of Combined Task Force Dealers, Security Force Assistance Team 4, and United States Agency for International Development, who was represented by Brian Shea.
Birkhahn, DAIL members and Shea discussed how to find underground water sources, the different methods of irrigation, the types of water that are beneficial to plants versus humans, and how to construct pools or reservoirs for irrigation. Emphasis was placed on finding deep ground water sources, or aquifers. Birkhahn’s help was greatly appreciated and DAIL members concluded that the best way to find ground water was to compile an underground map based on information gathered from drilling wells and taking core samples in nearby areas.
Birkhahn then met with members of the DDA, who are local village leaders and elders who gather weekly to discuss development issues.
The elders were asked to return to their villages and share what they had learned with farmers and to inform villagers to bring all water-related issues to DAIL at the district center.
DAIL members inquired about refurbishing the Dahla dam.
Birkhahn informed the elders that funding for this project had recently received approval and that the Afghan government should start planning for construction that will begin next year.
“This is a great thing, because the silt has built up and Dahla doesn’t hold as much water as it used to; this new project will provide water to people who have none,” said Noor Mohammed Shah, an elder from Khwaja Mulk and a shura leader. “This training we were given today was very helpful.”
Birkhahn addressed members of CTF dealers, SFAT 4, and USAID on the need to assist the leadership in the Arghandab to use water management best practices to avoid including problems surrounding haphazard welling. A common practice in the villages of the district is to drill shallow water wells, sometimes only 25 meters deep.
“This causes problems because the water from the wells is surface water, not ground water, and much of the surface water is contaminated with various bacteria and may be harmful to people if consumed,” said Capt. Ryan Todd, a member of SFAT 5 who accompanied Birkhahn. “This shallow drilling does not provide sustainable sources of water.”
Birkhahn’s team determined that a few deep wells that were properly managed were far better than many shallow ones that would quickly run dry. The team determined that they will continue to work in partnership with DAIL to get this important message out to the people of the Arghandab.
“This presentation is like a keepsake that the people of Arghandab can learn from for years to come,” said Shah.