A Painful Solution to Iran’s Ongoing Water Shortage
In 2021, January was Iran’s driest month on record since 1983. March and October were also very dry, though November was wet. In the 21st Century, Iran has lost over 200 cubic kilometers of its total water storage and there is no end in sight.
Iran is a nation with a long history of periodic droughts. They cannot afford to waste water, but their governments have not helped in this essential matter. The Shah’s regime encouraged farmers to grow water-intensive crops, which was the opposite of what Iran needed. The Revolutionary government has faced sanctions for their gross human rights violations, and they have reacted by trying to become self-sufficient. They grew more wheat, rice, and pistachios, all of which require a great deal of water.
Iran depends on decreasing water supplies, and the problem gets worse for a variety of reasons. The poor use of hydroelectric power plants has made parts of Iran uninhabitable. Deforestation in Iran increases the chances of droughts, desertification, and floods. As a result of growing high water-needs crops, the groundwater levels have dropped at the alarming rate of 28 centimeters each year. The remaining groundwater is more brackish, leading to a lower wheat harvest. Those who own wells can extract as much water as they want, not just what they need, a policy that encourages water waste. Climate changes are leaving lakes smaller and rivers with less precious water. Add an increasing population that uses far more water per person than is sustainable. And Iran is only the world’s 24th most water-stressed country according to the World Resources Institute!
What can Iran do to turn the situation around? Given their population increase, it will not be easy even if the government made good decisions. They must find a sustainable way to use water, one that allows for the natural water tables to be replenished. They will need to grow crops that require less water. It might require the Iranian government to humble itself and accept technological help from Western nations. The alternative would involve the degeneration of the economy and political instability. There are already signs of social unrest that will probably increase as the year’s pass.
BBC News. Iran water: What’s causing the shortages?, August 2, 2021
Washington Institute. Water Insecurity: Iran’s Formidable Threat, May 20, 2022
Carnegie Europe. How the EU Can Help Iran Tackle Water Scarcity, July 7, 2022