News ID: 13975
Published: 0338 GMT October 21, 2014

Proper management key to solving water shortage in Iran

Iran is facing a water shortage of epic proportions, and little is being done to reverse decades-long trend that has reduced the country's water supply to crisis levels. Changes in global climate, a century of rampant development and heavy subsidies for water and other utilities are all contributing to a situation that is likely to get much worse. Iran Daily conducted an interview with Arash Sharifi, a PhD student at Rosenstiel School of Marine and Atmospheric Science, University of Miami, about ways to solve the drought problem in Iran, especially on how to deal with Iran's dying Lake Orumieh.

 

Experts of the interview follow:

IRAN DAILY: Given that Iran is facing drought conditions in recent years, what is your idea about resolving this problem?

SHARIFI: The drying up of lakes and wetlands in the county is due to the mismanagement of water resources and indiscriminate use of water in the agricultural sector and not just the climate change.

For example, Orumieh Lake is facing water shortage. A research by the University of Miami shows that the drainage basin of the lake was experiencing seasons of low precipitation during the past 55 years, and the lake was not as small as it is today. Orumieh Lake had never dried up during the past 15,000 years. A look at the trend of dam construction in the drainage basin of the lake shows that a dam was constructed in each 1,000 square kilometers within its drainage basin. Dam construction has recorded a 60-percent increase since 1996 and the decrease in the size of the lake was in sync with this trend. To counter the drying up of lakes and wetlands, we need to take three major steps, namely: a review of water resources management, optimization of agriculture and public awareness.

 

Is it true that Iran is facing a three- or four-decade drought period?

According to a NASA research, countries such as Iran are facing climate change. The average rainfall, tracked by weather stations in the country, showed a declining trend in the past 60 years, although we experienced an increase in rainfall in certain years. Researches show that Iran is facing chronic drought conditions.

 

Is there any way to save Orumieh Lake from drying? What is the practical method to end the crisis?

Yes, there are ways to change and improve the current condition of the lake. This condition will change, if we change our attitude toward the lake and consider it a mega ecosystem. The natural environment of the lake and its drainage basin were damaged during the past 40 years due to unmanaged development activities. Therefore we should not expect to improve the condition of the lake in the short term or through a plan of action.

 

What is your prediction of climate change in Iran in the coming years?

On the whole, we predict fundamental changes in atmospheric cycle over the country in the coming decades, which means certain parts of the country with high levels of rainfall will face low precipitation and those with low rainfalls will experience high precipitation. Surveys show that we are entering a period of El Niño. El Niño is the warm phase of the El Niño Southern Oscillation (commonly called ENSO) and is associated with a band of warm ocean water that develops in the central and east-central equatorial Pacific (between approximately the International Date Line and 120°W), including off the Pacific coast of South America. This phenomenon is affecting a large part of the hemisphere that includes Iran and the Middle East region. Because of this phenomenon, the northern parts of Iran will see further rainfalls and other parts lower precipitations. Therefore, the general trend of climate change in Iran will have many consequences in the future, one of which is the shortage of water resources.

Change in per capita energy consumption (an increase in energy consumption), health challenges, putting more pressure on forests and grasslands, change in coastal processes and their effects on the coastlines are among the possible results of climate change.

This will have direct effects on the economic situation of the country and the quality of living condition of the people.

It is not unlikely that we will witness conflicts in the provinces of the country for more access to natural resources, especially water. Such challenges will expand to other countries in the region. For example, the emergence of serious problems between Iran and its neighbors (over the issue of water) in the future is not unlikely.

 

What are the strategies of developed countries for tackling drought and water shortage?

The first step in fighting drought is that we should find its cause. Developed countries have made huge investments in fighting drought for many years. Currently many groups are studying climate change.

   
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