Minister Ties Water Crisis to Low Tariffs

Minister Ties Water Crisis to Low Tariffs Minister Ties Water Crisis to Low Tariffs

Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian on Tuesday released some disturbing data along with new warnings about the imprudent and unsustainable water consumption in Iran, which has reached alarming proportions amid low tariffs, rising temperatures and critically low levels of rainfall.

"Two-thirds of Iran is dry. Precipitation has fallen to one-third of global average and climate change has adversely affected the intensity and periods of rainfall while temperature has increased by 2 degrees Celsius," Chitchian said on the sidelines of Iran's First National Conference on Water Economics in Tehran, IRNA reported.

Chitchian recalled that the price of water sold to farmers is barely 5% of the real cost of the precious and dwindling resource. Wasteful and antiquated farming practices going back ages gobble up 90% of Iran’s water resources. The sector's 35% efficiency pales in comparison to the 70% in the developed world.

According to official reports, around 33 billion cubic meters of groundwater are replenished annually, but the country siphons off 58 billion cubic meters.

"A region wherein more than 40% of renewable water resources are exhausted is classified as water-stressed. Unfortunately, we have consumed more than 86% of our resources," the minister told the conferees.

The country’s precipitation rate from the beginning of the current water year (started September 2015) has decreased by 2% compared to the long-term average. Long-term average of rainfall has been estimated at 236 millimeters.

A 2013 study by the World Resources Institute ranked Iran as the world’s 24th most water-stressed nation, putting it at an extremely high risk of facing water scarcity

"Current (low) prices send the signal that people can consume water as much as they want and no one shows the will to restrain the consumption,"

Outlining the scale and scope of the crisis, Chitchian said, "This conference should have been held three decades ago." He called for the convergence of experts, government bodies and political stakeholders to find a concrete solution to the worsening water crisis.

"Efficient consumption patterns cannot be achieved through bylaws, appeals and promotional work. The current condition will persist as long as prices are low," he warned.

The top energy official also raised a big question over the plausibility of plans to address the looming water crisis.

"Current resources can't satisfy the country's demand for potable water and we're compelled to implement costly water transfer projects that demand huge investments. The ministry has not received its annual construction funds four months after the year began (Iranian fiscal year began in March)."

One plan calls for supplying water from the Caspian Sea in the north to the drought-ridden Semnan Province, but the controversial project could lead to large-scale deforestation not to mention the astronomical financial costs – something the government simply cannot afford.