EghtesadOnline: A regional framework for action on coping with water scarcity has been prepared and will be piloted in South Khorasan Province, deputy governor of the northeastern province said.
"The roadmap will help prioritize water supply to different sectors [farming, industries and households]. It will also specify sectors that should be limited, developed or replaced," Kamaleddin Mirjafarian was quoted as saying by IRNA.
“The aim is to strengthen the capacity of vulnerable regions and help them adapt [agricultural practices] to water scarcity and reduce water-related problems for food security and sustainable development goals in drought-stricken areas,” he added.
Water scarcity and droughts pose serious threats to the livelihood of farming communities and the economy in many parts of the country, especially in South Khorasan Province located in an arid region, which is why adaptation to water shortage is and will be the key to survival of the land, according to Financial Tribune.
Because climate change and population growth are likely to present serious challenges in some regions, the official said such plans should also be implemented in northern areas where average annual precipitation is relatively high.
"Annual water consumption in South Khorasan Province is 1 billion cubic meters, of which 900 million cubic meters are used by farmers," he said, noting that potable water and industries use 70 mcm and 30 mcm respectively.
Wells account for the lion's share of water production at 63%. Close to 250 mcm come from qanat water systems (underground aqueducts) and the rest from groundwater resources like rivers and dams, which are drying up due to the extensive extraction of water for farming and non-agricultural use.
The pattern of deficits in underground water resources in the province has reached 150 mcm, he said.
Jumping to solutions to ease the shortages, Mirjafarian said the regional framework for action on adaptation (which took two years to be drawn up) will help cut 26 mcm of water extracted from illegal wells. Furthermore, the program calls for reducing water extraction from legal wells by 25 mcm.
Rest of the deficit (100 mcm) will be compensated with the help of modern irrigation systems and by developing techniques such as aquifer and watershed management.
Experts believe that agriculture is the largest water user globally, which implies that the sector will be crucial in addressing water scarcity.
History of Adaptation
The official said last water demand and supply patterns reflect a history of adaptation; for example, due to desert climate and water scarcity, residents of Yazd (the driest city of Iran, with annual precipitation of hardly 49 millimeters and 23 days of rainfall) have developed impressive methods of water management throughout history, one of which is digging qanats.
Based on the framework, an estimated 20 mcm of wastewater will be treated and reused in agriculture sector.
"A large volume of potable water is lost due to seepage and rusting pipelines in urban and rural areas (30% and 35% respectively)," he complained.
Population growth and climate change will pose huge challenges for water management. Projections of water supply and demand over the 21st century show that in the absence of further adaptation efforts, serious water shortages are highly likely in some regions, especially in the central plateau.
Sustainable progress in water use efficiency is likely, but would be insufficient to avoid future shortages. Some adaptation measures that have been effective in the past, most importantly large additions to reservoir storage, have little promise.
The bottom line is that while the overall ability to adapt has allowed communities to largely avoid crippling water shortages, the future may have bigger adaptation challenges than in the past.
In addition to continued population growth, climate change will reduce water supplies and increase water demand in many regions across continents.