290 Plains Running Dry

290 Plains Running Dry290 Plains Running Dry

The water crisis in the country is more acute than previously anticipated with hundreds of plains and plateaus grappling with unprecedented declines in the respective groundwater resources, a deputy energy minister warned at the weekend.

Sattar Mahmoudi said "water levels and the total volume of water supply have dropped in almost 294 plains and plateaus while in some the quality of water has also deteriorated. There was a plan to arrest this trend in the past but was shelved due to lack of financial resources."

Issues related to groundwater resources will soon be tackled in 11 workgroups that will decide on early and workable solutions to the crisis, he told Mehr News Agency.  

Mahmoudi stressed the need to address the ongoing worsening water problem and said plans for water conservation and "balancing groundwater resources" now top the government agenda due to the unsustainable use and "excessive extraction in recent years that have gravely harmed water levels in the underground tables."

President Hassan Rouhani's administration, which took office in the summer of 2013, has adopted a new approach in dealing with the water crisis, the official said without elaboration.

  Excessive Water Use

Several senior officials and close confidantes of the president have often publicly warned about the grave dangers of excessive water use, especially in the key agricultural sector and the crucial need to conserve water due to decades of declining precipitation across the country.

As a result of the decrease in water supplies, waste, overconsumption, dangerous climate change and drought, many lakes such as Bakhtegan Lake and Lake Urmia have almost dried up.

Under the auspices of the government, key problems have been identified and the Ministry of Energy is striving to augment and upgrade conservation plans that will also cover the affected plains. The measures include strict and "verifiable limits on water extraction and artificial recharge of ground waters," Mahmoudi said.

One specific issue of serious concern in Iran is the colossal amount of water used by the agriculture sector, which according to official reports consumes 90% of the available freshwater, through either rain-fed or irrigated systems.

And the problem simply does not end here. Almost 70% of the total water used by farmers are wasted largely due to misuse, evaporation and obsolete use of the precious resource.

Small wonder that some prominent economists and environmentalists in Iran have openly voiced grave concern over traditional farming methods and are pushing hard for increasing the efficiency of land, water and energy use in agriculture. They are on record as saying that most of "the present agricultural production practices are economically unfeasible and must end sooner rather than later."