Wednesday, October 30, 2013

Iran's Water Issues

Iran's long term security is threatened by environmental degradation, especially dwindling water resources:
Iran’s fresh water supplies are now under unsustainable strains. Ninety percent of the country—which is slightly smaller than Alaska—is arid or semi-arid, and an estimated two-thirds of its rainfall evaporates before it can replenish rivers. As a result, Iran provides more than half of its water needs by drawing from underground aquifers, but public usage is rapidly draining the subterranean reservoirs. At current rates of overuse, twelve of Iran’s thirty-one provinces will exhaust their groundwater reserves within the next 50 years.
Iran’s economic policies have exacerbated the problem. Groundwater is free to well owners and, due to government subsidies, users pay a fraction of the actual energy costs for pumping water to the surface.  Iran annually pumps 4 billion cubic meters of groundwater that nature does not replenish...
In the northwest, Iran’s dams (such as the Karun-3, left), irrigation systems, and drought have so diminished the 13 rivers feeding into Lake Urmia that the Middle East’s largest lake has shrunk more than 60 percent since 1995. In the southwest, Lake Bakhtegan, once Iran’s second largest lake, has dried up completely under the combined impacts of prolonged drought and damming on the Kor River.
The article notes that there has already been low-level conflict over water in the country, including sabotage of a diversion pump by local farmers near Yazd and exchange of fire with Afghan forces over diversion of water into an irrigation canal.  The best solution for Iran is probably to give up the goal of becoming self-sufficient in food and move toward a sustainable level of agriculture with proceeds from the energy sector being used to acquire food from abroad.

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