In the current week marking the 39th anniversary of the Islamic Revolution, 100 water and wastewater plans in urban and rural areas worth over 100 trillion rials ($2.1 billion) will come on stream, the energy minister said.
Reza Ardakanian added that 99.4% of the population, including 73% in rural areas, are connected to the drinking water network, while 48% of the Iranian population are linked with the wastewater network, IRNA reported on Sunday.
“The government aims to provide drinking water to an additional two million villagers by 2021,” he added.
Noting that about 4.3 billion cubic meters of effluent water is generated from about 6 bcm of drinking water, Ardakanian said Iran can only reuse 1.2 billion cubic meters of the wastewater, which should be increased.
“The ballooning problem of water scarcity cannot be tackled unless consumption patterns are modified, especially in the water-intensive sectors,” he said. “Since the country has faced water scarcity in the past years and the problem does not seem to be ending, we have to adjust the consumption patterns instead of merely trying to fight the drought.”
Call for Increasing Water Efficiency
The energy minister noted that the government needs to devise new guidelines and decide how to use the scarce natural resource in a more efficient way, especially in sectors like agriculture.
Excessive water consumption in agriculture is considered the main cause of the country’s water depletion. Over 90% of the country’s water resources are used up by unsustainable and wasteful farming practices.
Iran’s annual water consumption tops 97 billion cubic meters, while the country only has 88 bcm of renewable sources. Experts predict that the country’s water scarcity will hit crisis level by 2025, when available renewable water will be less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita, down from 2,000 cubic meters in 1950. Ardakanian added that studies must be conducted to see whether “the cultivation of many products is reasonable compared to the amount of water used by them”, and what approaches can be adopted to reduce water consumption.
Several proposals have been made by experts to help alleviate the problem, some of which have been implemented. For instance, financial aid can be used to help farmers use modern irrigation equipment to prevent the critical water condition in the country from worsening.
The minister also referred to energy tariffs, which have a direct impact on the consumption of natural resources by the “public and industries”. Ardakanian urged the need for subsidy cut on drinking water and raising awareness about judicious consumption.
“As long as water prices are not modified, neither can we tackle the water shortage nor will people and industries change their consumption patterns,” he added. According to Ardakanian, the production of each cubic meter of drinking water costs the government 10,000 rials ($0.21) while the same amount is given to the public for only 4,200 rials ($0.9).
In spite of all warnings, the excessive withdrawal of water from aquifers by both the agriculture sector and the public is continuing, which is hardly justified or sustainable.