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EghtesadOnline: Raising water tariffs will not necessarily lead to lower consumption, but can help if applied in tandem with other management measures, a water expert said.

“Higher tariffs will result in filling the pockets of water organizations. These companies will use the additional income to improve their financial posture. They will not spend it on plans and programs to encourage people to consume water judiciously,” ISNA quoted Dariush Mokhtari as saying.

The government ratified a proposal by the Energy Ministry to raise water tariff by 7%. The new rates went into effect on April 21.

One of the factors, most experts say, contributing to unusually high water consumption and waste is that the precious commodity is sold at very low prices to farmers households and industries, according to Financial Tribune.

It costs the government 25,000 rials (25 cents) to deliver one cubic meter of water to consumers, whereas consumers only pay 40% of the total cost (10,000 rilas or 10 cents), which explains why they take the precious resource for granted. 

Henceforth water rates will be 10,700 rials (10.7 cents) per cubic meter.

The Energy Ministry says the higher tariffs are necessary to compensate a part of distribution costs and encourage subscribers to consume less.

However, experts including Mokhtari, believe that promoting awareness about water scarcity and the impending problems can play a more effective role in containing the decades-old water crisis that has emerged as a serious source of concern in many rich and poor countries.

Located in one of the world's most water-stressed regions, Iran is saddled with excessive consumption plus high levels of water loss because of aging infrastructure and outdated framing practices.



Questionable Policies

Desertification, population growth, climate change, illegal water wells, wasteful farming, building water-intensive industries in arid regions, injudicious use of water in households and mismanagement of underground water resources are known to have made a bad situation worse. 

An increasing number of voices are being heard against the government’s old and questionable agriculture policies with many saying that growing many crops and fruits inside the country is simply not affordable. 

However, there are analysts who insist Iran's water reserves are adequate to meet the needs of its 80 million people, but years of mismanagement and excessive consumption have made things difficult.

Annual water loss in urban areas is a colossal 25%. A part of the wastage is due to seepage and the existence of old and eroding pipelines. The average amount of water loss in developed countries is said to be 15%.

Moreover, 170,000 illegal water wells have become a major problem for water authorities struggling to curb the high extraction and consumption rates, namely in major agricultural regions.

The outdated farming practices are hardly 30-35% efficient, which is unacceptable because the agro sector is responsible for more than 90% of water consumption. The average global water use efficiency in this sector is 75%.

Last August, the government agreed to allocate $500 million to implement pressurized irrigation systems to help increase efficiency of water use in farms.

Plans call for promoting drip irrigation as it helps reduce water loss by up to 40%.


Iran Water Tariffs Dissenting Voice management measures