People, Environment

Scientific Illiteracy to Blame for Water Woes

Scientific Illiteracy to Blame for Water WoesScientific Illiteracy to Blame for Water Woes

Lack of scientific background and knowledge among decision-makers is the main cause of Iran's current struggle with water shortage.

"The scientific illiteracy of authorities is the reason why we're using three times the ecological capacity of our country," said Hedayat Fahmi, the deputy head of Water and Wastewater Planning Office at the Energy Ministry.

"The country has been so preoccupied with development that it has completely overlooked its effects on the environment and resource management."

As reported by Mehr News Agency, during the Second National Conference on Management of Megacities With Reference to Environment (Nov. 14-15), Fahmi warned of the dire impact of inaction.

"Forty years ago (when precipitation was high and population low), our annual water consumption barely reached 40 billion cubic meters," he said.

"Today, despite the fact that our annual renewable water resources are about 120 bcm and precipitation has decreased considerably, our annual water consumption amounts to a catastrophic 100 bcm."

The official stressed the need for reducing water consumption by 40%, "because the critical threshold of consumption must be somewhere around 70 billion cubic meters".

Therefore, authorities need to reevaluate policies and reconsider their plans, Fahmi added.

Fahmi also underlined the importance of developing villages and suburban areas, and the necessity of paving the way for rural development in general.

"Instead of expecting things to go the right way on their own, we should focus on preparing the grounds for our plans to be implemented," he said.

"You can't expect to become self-sufficient without developing rural areas."

Fahmi stressed that expecting farmer to change their irrigation tactics without first introducing new methods and teaching them how to use modern techniques is futile.

As high as domestic water use may be, it pales in comparison to the amount of water used in agriculture. Iran’s wasteful farming practices gobble up over 90% of the water resources, with a mere 30% return. This sheds light on the importance of managing rural areas to control a wide part of water consumption.

Rain water harvesting, judicious water use (especially in the agro sector that guzzles more than 90% of the country’s water resources), promoting modern  irrigation techniques, recycling wastewater, separating potable water from wastewater and implementation of watershed plans are among measures suggested by experts to help conserve water.

Environmentalists, social scientists and the cross-section of academia and media have for years appealed to the masses to cut water consumption and called on officials to undertake meaningful reforms, to no avail.

There is a strong consensus that if water consumption patterns do not change in the near future, many parts of the country will turn into barren desert while entire towns and villages will become uninhabitable.

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