Economy, Domestic Economy

Reforms in Cultivation Patterns Needed

Reforms in Cultivation Patterns Needed
Reforms in Cultivation Patterns Needed

Over 10 billion cubic meters of underground water resources in the country is over-drafted annually, says the Department of Environment (DoE), adding that the amount is 50 times the volume of Karaj Dam.

Reza Maknoun, a DoE consultant, said in an interview with ISNA that reforms in cultivation patterns are needed.

The energy ministry has set a limit on the quantity of groundwater that can be safely pumped out. If the water drawn from the main reserves exceeds the safe yield of the aquifer, it is considered a "red line," he said.

Over half of the 600 plains in Iran are now in crisis and cannot extract more groundwater, he noted.

There is growing concern over the country's depletion of water resources due to consecutive drought and lack of rainfall.

The deputy power minister said to compensate overdrawing of water in the past 40 years, adequate water resources are vital, which are not available. "Therefore conventional agricultural methods need to be revised. Underground water is not allowed to be drawn but we also need to pump water back within 15 years", he said.

Maknoun asserted that return to water equilibrium is a task far from easy and urged that farming patterns be changed with emphasis on low-water-use crops. Crops such as Saffron and Kiwi use less water and are sold at higher prices and should receive priority. Import of high water consuming products for domestic use would be more economical, he said.

Greenhouse Cultivation

Cultivation under greenhouse conditions with less amount of evaporation is another effective way of water conservation for farmers. Summer crops should be grown under such conditions. Greenhouse cultivation leads to less water use, more products, and richer farmers, he noted.

He said complete cultivation of wheat in Iran with no imports is unreasonable since the country faces water crisis and added that refining sullage, or as it is called greywater, for agricultural purposes is indeed a priority. The water could be used to irrigate trees and shrubs. The farm produce is in no danger as the water is not in direct contact with the fruit.

Greywater or sullage is defined as wastewater generated from wash hand basins, showers and baths, which can be recycled on-site for uses such as landscape irrigation, toilet flushing  and constructed wetlands. Greywater often includes discharge from laundry, dishwashers and kitchen sinks. It differs from the discharge of toilets which is designated sewage or blackwater to indicate it contains human waste.

Maknoun pointed to the need for a water consumption pattern and said Lake Urumia region would not be cultivated in the current Iranian year, which started March 21. The government has allocated funds to be paid to the farmers as compensation. This had helped provide 400 million cubic meters of water for Lake Urumia. However, conservation measures should not result in loss to farmers.

He considered the water waste in cities and farmlands as the biggest challenge for water reserves and concluded almost 85% of fresh water is used in agriculture and another 15% in urban and industrial areas, 70% and 20% of which is wasted respectively.