EghtesadOnline: Serious negotiations are underway with water-rich neighboring countries to pump more water from shared basins, the energy minister said.
"Plans are in place to cooperate with neighboring states, namely Turkey and Turkmenistan, that have more water resources so that Iran can increase its share from joint water basins," Reza Ardakanian was also quoted as saying by Mehr News Agency.
According to the official, after detailed technical, economic and environmental considerations, transbasin diversion is also on the ministry's agenda to supply people with fresh water.
Interbasin transfer or transbasin diversion refers to manmade conveyance schemes that move water from one river basin to another where water is less available, according to Financial Tribune.
Pointing to other strategies to tackle chronic water crisis in different regions, Ardakanian called for greater focus on collecting and treating water for drinking and farming.
"So far, only 48% of the country's urban population are connected to the wastewater networks," he said, adding that these should be expanded as fast as possible, as it is one of the safest approaches to provide residents with freshwater.
Commenting on the country's potable water consumption, Ardakanian said, "Six billion cubic meters of water are used for drinking and personal hygiene per day, of which 4.3 bcm (70%) turn into wastewater that can be recycled."
Based on the latest figures issued by the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company, 184 wastewater treatment plants are currently operational across Iran with an annual output of about 1.2 billion cubic meters of processed wastewater.
However, the treatment plants are only able to treat the sewage generated by 18.5 million people, which accounts for 32% of the country's urban population.
Asked about the development of sewage systems in villages, he added that due to financial constraints, less than 0.5% of Iran's rural population are linked to the network.
Water officials, including Bahman Vakili, director of a specialized department to expand wastewater networks at NWWEC, believe that concerted efforts should be made to expand the system to help achieve water management objectives.
Before the 1979 Islamic Revolution, wastewater treatment and reclamation was virtually non-existent in Iran. Significant efforts were made in the 1990s, and by 2001, there were 39 wastewater treatment plants with a total capacity of 712,000 cm per day, treating the wastewater produced by a population of 3.8 million.
Harvesting rainwater, promoting modern irrigation techniques, recycling wastewater, separating potable water from wastewater and implementing watershed plans are among measures suggested by experts to help conserve water.
For years, environmentalists, social scientists and the cross-section of academia and media have appealed to the masses to cut water consumption and called on officials to undertake meaningful reforms, but to no avail.
There is a strong consensus that if water consumption patterns do not change in the near future, many parts of the country will turn into barren desert while entire towns and villages will become totally empty of residents.
Official reports say nearly 5,000 villages across the country are struggling with varying degrees of water scarcity.