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Water Rationing In Tehran As Iran Faces Looming Water Crisis

Via Future Directions, a report on the potential need for water rationing to be imposed in Tehran if residents fail to reduce their water consumption by 20 per cent following a sharp decline in annual precipitation:

Reduced rainfall across Iran is leading to significant reductions in groundwater reserves and fears a water crisis is looming. Faced with a critical shortage of water the government has called for water conservation and greater water use efficiency nation-wide. With increased drought events, population growth and climate change creating the “perfect storm” for future water insecurity, greater management is required now to address declining water availability. 


In an attempt to reduce water consumption, Iran may be forced to introduce water rationing in the capital, Tehran. Iranian Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian has announced the capital will face water rationing and shortages if a campaign to reduce domestic water consumption by 20 per cent fails. This follows calls from President Hassan Rouhani for a water conservation plan to address Iran’s water shortages.

Despite imminent shortages, water use in Iran remains inefficient with domestic use 70 per cent higher than the global average. With a national population of 75 million people, 12 million of who reside in the capital, demand for water is rapidly increasing even as major lakes and groundwater resources begin to shrink.

Located in one of the most arid regions in the world, Iran has an annual average precipitation rate of 252 millimetres, approximately one third of the global average. Estimates suggest the lower-than-average precipitation this year has caused a 30 per cent reduction in the volume of water in dams across the country, with only five exceeding 90 per cent capacity. According to the Institute for Forest and Pasture Research, groundwater levels have also dropped two metres in recent years across 70 plains, accounting for as much as 100 million hectares.

Aquifer extraction through the drilling of wells is a key contributor to Iran’s dwindling water resources. Iranian environmentalist Eskander Firouz believes Iran’s growing population and expanding agriculture sector has led to unsustainable aquifer withdrawal. As many as 100,000 water wells are operating in Iran, many without licences or permission to do so. Chitchian estimates at least 100 billion cubic metres of water have been extracted from aquifers in recent years, leading to the salination of farmland wells and reduced groundwater access.  

Agriculture accounts for over 90 per cent of water use in Iran. The government’s food self-sufficiency and agricultural development policies have contributed to the high consumption rates of the industry and, according to Iranian ecologist Mohammad Darvish, have only led to drastic shortages in water. One of the key sectors for Iran’s economy, water scarcity is restricting development and increasing uncertainty in the agricultural industry.   

Iran is facing an impending water crisis. Climate change, lower precipitation and population growth are all leading to an increased demand for a dwindling supply. The government has been constructing dams to address water shortages since the 1950s, but this will not address the growing gap between demand and supply. Water rationing and campaigns to use water more efficiently, as with those suggested for Tehran, are only a small part of a much larger management redirection. 

Addressing Iran’s policy on agricultural self-sufficiency is critical to effectively managing water use in the state. Historic underinvestment and mismanagement of resources has led to an unsustainable industry and burden on available water. Water efficiency in the industry is also required. Modernising irrigation and closely monitoring groundwater access will only begin to address water waste.

While the future of Iran’s water security looks grim, the recent change of government has led many commentators to expect a change of direction for water management in the state. President Rouhani, in his call for a national water-conservation plan said that domestic water use needed to be reduced; the agricultural sector made more water efficient; and that the protection of groundwater and the regulation of wells was required to begin addressing Iran’s water shortages. Darvish believes the new Rouhani government will engage with experts to resolve arising issues and address water management.

This entry was posted on Wednesday, November 13th, 2013 at 4:10 am and is filed under Iran.  You can follow any responses to this entry through the RSS 2.0 feed.  Both comments and pings are currently closed. 

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