People, Environment

Sixth Development Plan Last Chance to Curb Water Crisis

Iran’s average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average over the last 10 years.Iran’s average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average over the last 10 years.

Addressing Iran’s water crisis in the sixth five-year economic development plan (2017-22) is the country’s last chance before reaching the point of no return, the head of the National Center of Strategic Studies of Agriculture and Water at Iran Chamber of Commerce, Industries, Mines and Agriculture said.

“The economic development plan contains our most efficient strategy to curb the crisis … It is our last recourse in dealing with the water issue,” Mohammad Hossein Shariatmadar also told Khabaronline. 

He pointed out that countries, which failed to address their water problems in a timely manner, are now struggling with extreme decrease in groundwater resources, high salinity and contamination of water as well as poverty, unemployment, displacement and social conflicts. 

“It is high time we tackle the water crisis. The longer it takes us to take action, the more costlier restoration projects will become,” he said at a press conference on Tuesday to talk about the National Water Day Conference on March 1. 

In recent years, 120 billion cubic meters of water in excess of what’s necessary has been withdrawn from groundwater resources and the aquifers are almost totally depleted. This is while natural restoration of groundwater reserves is much slower than the rate at which water is pumped out. 

Shariatmadar stressed that plans must be made to replenish groundwater reserves through judicious household consumption and efficient irrigation methods.  

He noted that great progress has been made with regard to water efficiency in the agriculture sector over the past two years, which show that Iran is at least capable of reducing its water consumption.

“The rate of water efficiency stood at 1.07 kilogram of crops per cubic meter of water in 2013 while the figure reached 1.2 kg/cm in 2014 and 2015, which shows a 12% increase within two years,” he said. 

Shariatmadar said by increasing water efficiency in the sector by 6% annually, the agriculture sector will be able to make do with 70 billion cubic meters of water every year.

“This will result in saving 21 bcm of water during the course of the development plan,” he said, claiming that this is sufficient to end the water crisis.

“By saving 15 bcm every year, we can overcome the water crisis by 2021,” he said.

Officials say at least 90% of Iran’s natural water resources have already been used to meet the country’s needs and relying on natural reserves is no longer viable.

Lack of efficiency in the water network and excessive use in the key agriculture sector are major contributors to the country’s high water demand.

More than 90% of Iran’s water are used in agriculture, while more than 14% of water transferred through the network are wasted by old pipelines.

Analysts say Iran’s water reserves are adequate to supply the needs of its 80-million-strong population, but poor management and excessive consumption have made things difficult.

Located in one of the world’s most water-stressed regions, Iran’s average precipitation rate has been lower than the global average over the last 10 years.

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