EghtesadOnline: Dwindling underground water resources have forced 20 million people from small towns and villages to the countryside in the last two decades, deputy head of the Underground Water Resources Protection Unit of Iran Water Resource Management said.
“Iran’s water deficit is about 130 billion cubic meters and if this issue is not addressed, the damage will be irreversible,” Abdollah Fazeli Farsani was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Water is being pumped out much faster than it can be naturally replenished, Financial Tribune quoted him as saying.
Underground resources play a key role in meeting demand for potable water and farming, but unchecked consumption is sucking the aquifers dry, he noted.
“There are an estimated 770,000 (authorized and unauthorized) wells in Iran that have become as serious source of concern and are imposing dangerous pressure on the water tables.”
In the central plateau, people say water has become their biggest problem.
A large number of farmers rely largely on groundwater, especially in places where rivers and canals are far away or are already tapped out or polluted.
As per law, digging wells must be authorized by the Energy Ministry, but this is not well implemented and groundwater remains unregulated.
Although illegal wells in recent years have been sealed in bulk across the country, very many are still being used. Officials say at least 10 years are required to close all the remaining ones.
“An approximate 58,000 unauthorized wells have been sealed since 2015, but more effective measures are needed,” the senior water official said without providing details.
He concurred that dealing with the menace of illegal wells needs funds that have been in short supply due to the difficult economic conditions.
An estimated $600 million was supposed to be allocated to projects to help revive the depleting underground water resources in the past few years. “A very small amount of this was given to the Energy Ministry.”
Farsani noted that there is a link between soil quality and the level of underground resources. When the latter dwindles, the former becomes poor.
Renewable water resources show an appalling 20% decline over five years, declining from 130 billion cubic meters in 2013 to 105 bcm now.
Renewable water resources are defined as the average manual flow of rivers and recharge of aquifers generated from precipitation.
According to reports, the [renewable] resources were around 140 bcm in 1999 and have been of the rapidly descending order ever since. It fell to 135 bcm, 130 bcm and 105 bcm in 2007, 2013 and 2017, respectively.