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3 Provinces Gripped by Water Shortage
Economy, Domestic Economy

3 Provinces Gripped by Water Shortage

Three Iranian provinces desperately suffer from water shortage, and development finances provided by the government have not been enough to tackle the problem, the minister of energy, Hamid Chitchian, told ILNA as he visited a dam construction project in Zanjan Province.

Provinces of Tehran, Isfahan, and Kerman are experiencing a worrisome level of water shortage and ensuring the optimum management of water resources seems to be the mere solution to this major problem, Chitchian said. Since the financial resources allocated so far for the water management projects have failed to resolve the issue, foreign aid have come to help, the minister added.

Iran has received loans from the Islamic Development Bank (IDB), the World Bank and the ECO Bank to complete several water and wastewater management projects across the country, an official with the water and wastewater engineering company said earlier this week.

As a result of years of drought, Iran has been forced to become over-reliant on its groundwater reserves without allowing them ample time to be naturally replenished. This overuse has drained the reserves and even permanently damaged the levels of underground reservoirs rendering many sources completely dry or unusable.

Experts continuously emphasize that the present water crisis in Iran has three main drivers: rapid population growth and inappropriate spatial population distribution; inefficient agriculture; and mismanagement and rapid urban development.

 Tehran’s Problem

While water shortage has been a persistent problem over the past decade, a severe decline in precipitation this year has made things worse for the capital Tehran.

The serious shortage of water in Tehran, caused by two successive years of drought, will not be alleviated even if the city receives a normal level of precipitation this fall, the CEO of regional water company of Tehran, Khosro Erteqai, told reporters in a news conference yesterday.

Iran’s Meteorological Organization has forecasted a normal level of rainfall for Tehran during the next three months, and if the predictions come true, only a part of the water shortage will be eased this year, Erteqai stated.

During the irrigation season of 1390-1391 (2011-2012), the precipitation volume reached about 2.3 billion cubic meters. A year later (2012-2013), the number dropped to 1.3 cubic meters, while in the current irrigation season, the volume fell to 1 billion cubic meters, he said.

“While the storage volume of dams in the normal irrigation season of 2011-2012 was 760 million cubic meters, the number reached 470 million cubic meters, and plummeted even more to 420 million cubic meters this season,” he noted.

Presently, 54 percent of Tehran’s demand for water is supplied by dams and 46 percent is taken from the water wells, Erteqai asserted.

“If the water shortage persists at the current alarming level, the cloud seeding project will be the most likely scenario to get over it,” he said.

Tehran’s water supply comes from four dam reservoirs - Lar, Latian, Taleqan and Karaj dams - and water wells dug south of the city. Official estimates show that the total volume of stored water in the mentioned reservoirs has dropped 40 percent in comparison with last year. The four dams had a total reserve of 716 million cubic meters two years ago; that is now down to 355 million cubic meters. Given the drastic reduction in rainfall and supply constraints, Tehran is now relying more heavily on its water wells.

According to Chitchian, twenty-five percent of Iran’s drinking water is consumed by Tehran residents, who comprise 12 percent of the country’s population.

The government has urged residents to be more mindful of their water consumption and has also asked farmers in the country to develop more efficient irrigation techniques.

In addition to the ongoing changes in delivery, Tehran’s water authorities have begun cutting water supplies to persistent heavy users who repeatedly ignored warnings about their consumption.

  Pollution vs. Conservation  

Most of Iran’s population is connected to the main water system and therefore has access to a relatively high standard of drinking water. Although this in itself is impressive, it is “marred somewhat by the fact that an incredibly low number of people are connected to the sewer network,” a recent report by the Business Monitor International has said.

The lack of a proper sewer system has caused untreated waste water to pollute drinking water supplies. Although this is a possibly dangerous problem, it has been reduced significantly in recent years through government investment. Iran is currently trying to minimize the damage done by spreading drought while simultaneously investing in hydropower, desalination and major water pipeline projects.

There are also certain regions where it has been predicted that the level of clean water will dramatically decline and be replaced with salty or polluted water if the remaining underground reservoirs continue to be excessively exploited. In turn, such polluted water could contaminate the remaining supplies. Where underground supplies have in the past helped Iran survive a year or two of drought, they have always been allowed to replenish naturally during the following years of higher rainfall.

In the current situation the drought seems endless and the temporary option of exploiting underground supplies will soon not be available anymore. Parts of Iran’s underground water are also badly polluted because of lacking sanitation methods and dumped agricultural waste.

The Energy Ministry has predicted that the annual volume of water available per capita would decline 25 percent over the next 20 years.

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