The United Nations’ index on water conditions indicates that Iran is facing a severe water crisis, and the central plateau of Iran is experiencing absolute water scarcity. Government officials attribute the current conditions to factors such as low precipitation in recent years or high consumption, but the regime’s Majlis (parliament) Research Center has emphasized that mismanagement has played a significant role in this situation.
The Majlis Research Center has also stated that if the goal is self-sufficiency in producing the necessary food products for Iran’s population, the current pattern does not have sufficient water resources to support it.
According to a report by the state-run Tejarat News website, normal precipitation this autumn does not signify the end of drought and water crisis in Iran. The dams’ capacity remains below 50 percent, and many regions in Iran are facing severe water scarcity.
“Tajarat News” emphasized that with excessive water withdrawals, underground water resources have also been depleted, and land subsidence in some areas confirms this fact.
The Majlis Research Center stated in a report that the water crisis in Iran is not solely caused by climate change. In other words, mismanagement and lack of planning in the water sector are also contributing factors in this crisis.
Studies show that human factors, including increased water consumption, economic and livelihood dependence on water, import and export situations, cultivated area, population growth, and food security, have a greater impact on increased consumption and water scarcity than natural factors caused by decreased rainfall.
Referring to the “Falkenmark Water Stress Indicator,” it is evident that Iran is in a critical situation, which signifies inadequate water security and will affect food and social security.
Reports indicate that among the country’s primary basins, the central plateau and the Qareh-Qum basin have the worst absolute water scarcity.
Another index mentioned by the Majlis research center is the United Nations index, which does not portray a favorable picture of water security in Iran.
According to the Majlis Research Center’s report, achieving agricultural self-sufficiency based on limited water resources has been a misguided approach.
Agricultural self-sufficiency has been the dominant policy of the government in recent decades, and this approach has led to the depletion of water resources, especially underground water, and has threatened the country’s water security.
Continuing food production policies in the country without considering the risks of further depletion of underground water resources will lead to instability in various parts of Iran’s central plateau. Water scarcity and increased land subsidence will leave no option but widespread migration of people from desert areas.
Due to high water consumption in the agricultural sector and the lack of plans to control floods in plains, a considerable portion of predicted rainfall in the coming months will go to waste.
As mentioned in the report by the Parliament Research Center, the most critical factors contributing to the water crisis in Iran are the lack of rational governance and improper management.
The absence of a comprehensive plan for water management and a lack of appropriate focus on sustainable development can put Iran in an even more dangerous situation in the near future.
While various factors can be cited for the water crisis, one of the main causes attributed to the water crisis in Iran is reckless dam construction. Constructing a dam in any country requires extensive research, and countries are usually cautious and strict in dam construction. For example, from the end of the Iran-Iraq war in 1988 until 2019, Iran had over 172 operational dams, 672 dams under construction, 120 dams under study, while during the same period in France, only five large dams were built. Most of these dam constructions are carried out by the Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps (IRGC).
The IRGC justifies its reckless dam constructions by citing the need for supplying the country’s electricity demand. However, our country is located in a dry and semi-arid region of the world and has abundant oil and gas resources, which make it less dependent on hydroelectric power generation. Currently, only 10 percent of the country’s electricity is provided by dams.
The Revolutionary Guards consider supplying drinking water and agricultural water as an excuse for their dam constructions, but the dams built by the IRGC only provide about 10 percent of the water consumed by agricultural lands. Meanwhile, 40 percent of the country’s drinking water is wasted annually, and in the agricultural sector, 30 percent of water is lost annually. The total annual loss from these two sectors amounts to more than 40 billion cubic meters of water, approximately one-third of the country’s water consumption.
One of the factors that has prompted the Revolutionary Guards to engage in reckless dam construction projects is the transfer of water from rivers to dry and central areas of the country for the purposes of nuclear and profitable economic projects such as steel. Additionally, since these projects receive financial support from the government, they bring significant profits to the IRGC.
These exploitative policies will render most areas of Iran uninhabitable in the next 40 years.