Iran Makes Big Step Towards Long Term Water Conservation

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Last week, 100 water and wastewater plants in urban and rural Iran, worth more than $2.1 billion, went live during the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution.  The energy minister, Reza Ardakanian, stated that about 99.4% of the population, 73% in rural areas, are connected to a drinking water network while 48% are linked to the wastewater network.  According to Ardakanian, “The government aims to provide drinking water to an additional two million villagers by 2021.”

With six billion cubic meters (bcm) of potable water, Iran creates 4.3 billion cubic meters of effluent water.  They can only reuse 1.2 bcm of that which is what they aim to fix over the next five years.  Their goal is to alter consumption patterns to fix this issue, especially in sectors that are heavily dependent on water.  This issue matters to the Iranian people as they are used to facing water scarcity: a problem that only gets worse.  

The energy minister is focused on making new guidelines and deciding how to use this precious, yet scarce resource, more efficiently.  Agriculture is a huge culprit.  In fact, Iran deems it as the biggest culprit for water consumption. Agriculture uses about 90% of the country’s water resources. 

Iran uses about 97 bcm of water a year, but they only have 88 bcm of renewable resources.  Experts believe that scarcity in Iran will be at their peak crisis levels by 2025: less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita.  In 1950 it was 2,000 cubic meters per capita.  Ardakanian stresses the importance of studies to see if water is being used efficiently in producing agricultural products.

Experts have proposed some potential solutions.  One of these includes financial aid for farmers to use more modern irrigation equipment that would better conserve this precious resource.  Another is energy tariffs.  These tariffs directly impact consumption of natural resources by “public and industries.”  The energy minister is focused on a subsidy cut for drinking water and raising awareness on wasteful consumption.  

According to Ardakanian, “As long as water prices are not modified, neither can we tackle the water shortage nor will people and industries change their consumption patterns.”  Drinking water costs about $0.21 for each cubic meter and $0.9 for the public per cubic meter.  Still, the agriculture sector and public wastefulness are huge issues in the fight for conservation of water. 

The problem is so prevalent people have actually turned to praying for water, publicly in Iran. Farmers are in need of water for their animals, and people are looking to have drinking water in the coming years.  But if they can’t make it rain, the only option is conservation of what they currently have.  Iran made their first huge investment in the cause by funding and developing 100 water and wastewater plants.  Now it’s up to the people to use water wisely in industry and at home.

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