Water Resources Engineering (WRE) connects to economic, environmental, and societal issues. Our student, Shaimus Ryan, makes this connection in Tehran, Iran. This current event was reported in the Tehran Times on May 7, 2016, under the title, “Water Crisis in Iran: A Desperate Call for Action” by Kaveh Madani. In addition, this water crisis has also been recognized and reported on by Western publications such as the Washington Post, which ran an article titled “Iran’s Water Crisis the Product of Decades of Bad Planning.”

In Iran, it is becoming more and more difficult to supply the country’s population of around 78 million people with water. As Kaveh Madani explains, this has several root causes. However, it is closely linked to the water resource engineering practices that have been used in Iran for the last couple of decades. While Iran once invested heavily in sustainable water management, its efforts have changed to simply treating immediate problems, as opposed to planning for the future. This has now resulted in a constant need for new solutions to treat the symptoms of the underlying problems. These underlying problems have their roots in bad water management solutions, particularly when it comes to agriculture. In Iran, 92 percent of all water is consumed by agriculture (Madani). Due to Iran’s large population, and its more isolated economy, food security is very important, as the country must produce much of its own food. However, the farms that produce this food are inefficient when it comes to water usage. Many of these farms exist in rural areas, and rely on groundwater due to a hot climate with unreliable precipitation. Much of this farmland is in need of investment in water resource engineering techniques to boost water efficiency. Currently, the irrigation efficiency is only 35%, with only 5% under pressured irrigation (Madani).

Figure 1. Water Crisis In Iran

Agricultural problems are not the only drivers of Iran’s water crisis, however. The drivers of this crisis include problems with the economics surrounding water management as well. In addition, many environmental and societal factors are contributing to this problem. The increasing size of Iran’s largest metropolis, Tehran, is an indication of how societal factors are magnifying the water crisis. Tehran, home to 14 million people, has grown in recent decades with the large migration of Iran’s population to cities. In addition, increasing the population growth rate of Iran is both the official policy and cultural tradition of the nation. With so many people relying on the surrounding country for their supply of water, Iran’s limited water resources are being stretched to their maximum. To help mitigate this problem of water usage, several economic solutions have been proposed. For example, the author of the referenced article, Kaveh Madani, suggests increasing the cost of water, so as to lower its usage, and creating a water market, in order to increase the economic efficiency of water in Iran. In addition, he suggests more investment in the rural communities which use water for agriculture. Finally, it has been suggested that climate change may be worsening the water crisis in Iran. While this is uncertain, it is easy to see how other environmental factors come into play in Iran. While Iran has twice the world’s average of water usage, it only has one third of the world’s average in precipitation. In addition, many of the most populated places in Iran, such as the Tehran metropolis, are without their own regional water resources, and rely on the transport of water from other regions to survive. One of the greatest dangers to Iran at the moment is the potential depletion of its groundwater resources, which the Iranian people currently rely on. Should this happen, we would see a human catastrophe in Iran, particularly in its densely- populated capital. The future of Iran now relies on a combination of proper governance of its water resources and the implementation of water resource engineering.

Reference:

Rezaian, Jason. “Iran’s water crisis the product of decades of bad planning.” The New York Times (2014).

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