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EghtesadOnline: Groundwater reserves are being depleted at an alarming rate because of poor management and excessive consumption in the agricultural sector.

Agriculture Minister Mahmoud Hojjati says “Regarding management, all relevant bodies should cooperate to prevent precious water from being wasted and help reduce consumption. Promoting modern technology and equipment for irrigation is crucial,” ISNA reported.

Official data show 90% of the scarce water resources is used by the inefficient agro sector where unsustainable and wasteful farming practices are the norm for decades, maybe centuries. This is while the average global water use efficiency in the sector is 75%.

Domestic reports say advanced irrigation methods have been applied to two million hectares of farmland in the past years and irrigation efficiency has grown from 39% to 44% -- still a far cry from the global rates, Financial Tribune reported.

Modern irrigation systems help reduce water loss by allowing farmers to control the flow of water.

“From the economic perspective, it is important to consider revenues from the sale of crops and the value of water used in their production. After that we can decide what products should be produced locally and what can be imported, such as corn,” Hojjati said.

Another major problem the government is grappling with is the 170,000 illegal water wells that have been impeding efforts to reform and improve the strategic agro sector that is imposing prohibitive costs on the water industry due to age-old water-intensive farming systems.

Among measures taken by the government in this regard are the restrictions on farming and growing crops in areas where underground water resources are at alarmingly low levels.



Drip System and More 

Use of drip irrigation that helps reduce water use by up to 40% is being promoted. The globally popular system enables farmers and horticulturists to adjust the amount of water they need and avoid waste.

Using recycled wastewater is gradually assisting farmers to meet a notable portion of their water demand in their fields. 

Given the large volume of wastewater produced in cities and metropolises, the recycling scheme is expected to greatly help reduce dependence on and depletion of groundwater resources.

Another step has been the expansion of greenhouse farming. In the first half of the current fiscal, about 1,400 hectares of greenhouses were set up, which is twice the total area that went under this method of farming last year. 

Iran covers a total area of about 1.75 million square kilometers. Cultivable area is about 51 million hectares or 29% of the total area. 

Located in one of the world's most water-stressed regions, Iran's average precipitation rate over at least the past ten years has been lower than the global average.

The country's nearly two-decade-long struggle with drought, combined with high consumption and waste, has led to the dramatic decline in renewable water resources.

An estimated 37 million Iranians form the total 80 million are reportedly living in water-stressed regions.

Experts say the country's water scarcity will hit crisis levels by 2025 when available renewable water will be less than 1,000 cubic meters per capita.


Iran water waste agriculture sector Groundwater Reserves consumption