EghtesadOnline: President Hassan Rouhani has sounded the alarm on the worsening water crisis saying his administration invested $11.5 billion in the water sector after he took office in 2013.
In a meeting with officials at the Ministry of Agriculture on Monday Rouhani said overconsumption and waste has created the present dilemma as groundwater resources continue to shrink rapidly.
"If in the past one would dig 30 meters to find water, now he must go down 300 meters," Rouhani said, the presidential website reported.
Unprecedented declines in rainfall over decades have led to droughts across the country and conditions have worsened due to grossly inefficient farming methods, digging illegal wells and water-intensive crops, according to Financial Tribune.
Environmental experts have warned that if the water crisis is not addressed soon, it could lead to mass migration and security challenges as large numbers of people move out of the parched regions in search of secure livelihoods.
The research arm of the Majlis this week said water shortages would quickly lead to social discontent and turn into a "security challenge." The Majlis Research Center issued a grave warning: By 2020, 80% of the population will face water scarcity.
"There is no question that one who treats nature unjustly, nature will respond and not forgive," the president told the meeting.
Last month, 18 lawmakers representing constituencies from across Isfahan Province, where the water crisis is worsening, resigned en masse in a symbolic gesture against what they say is unfair distribution of water resources.
Rouhani admitted that the country faces limits in agricultural lands and water but "Iranians' intellectual capabilities" are unlimited and will mitigate such constraints.
Rouhani referred to his India tour last year where his Indian counterpart talked about covering streams to curb water evaporation and said the same methods can and should be used in Iran.
Agriculture Minister Mahmould Hojjati said at the meeting that investment in the agriculture sector increased from 17 trillion rials in 2013 to 100 trillion rials now.
Iran exported 4.58 million tons of food products worth $4.57 billion during the first eight months of the current fiscal (March 21-Nov. 21) to register a 7.9% growth in value compared with the same period last year.
The growth is an all-time high, according to a report released by the National Agriculture and Water Strategic Research Center, which draws on data provided by the Islamic Republic of Iran Customs Administration.
In its report, the MRC said the water year 2017-18 was one of the worst in terms of rainfall during the past half century.
According to the influential think tank, assuming that the urban population would grow by 1.3% and reach 63.2 million by 2020, "a significant portion will face water shortages."
Offering some solutions, the MRC said to strengthen the supply side, the nation must embark on increasing water production with the help of “desalination and digging and equipping wells.”
It also recommends improving water quality by “removing pollutants including heavy metals and nitrate from aquifers.”
Increasing reservoir capacity, reimbursing investors in the water industry, improving hydropower infrastructure for water production and diversifying financial instruments in the water sector… are other solutions proposed by the MRC.
On the demand side, the think tank underscores the need for improving water infrastructure, reducing the level of unpaid water (which it says is 25% in urban areas and 32% in rural regions), reduce consumption, including in government offices, and promoting judicious water use in school curriculums, through radio and TV programs and reforming (increasing) water rates.