Groundwater Extraction a Serious Cause for Concern
EghtesadOnline: On average 50 billion cubic meters of water is extracted from almost 500,000 authorized wells per year, resulting in huge water deficits in most plains, director of the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company of Iran (Abfa).
“Of this massive volume, 90% is used for farming,” Qasem Taqizadeh Khamesi was quoted as saying by IRNA.
Rapidly declining water resources has compelled the government to increase the number of plains from which water withdrawal is banned from 69 in 1968 to 405 now, he added.
“Banned plains account for 95% of the underground water that is depleting faster than expected.”
According to Abfa data, there are almost half a million authorized wells in Iran, of which 85% are used by farmers. Close to 50,000 belong to industries and the rest for household consumption.
"Water deficit from underground sources has reached 140 bcm and a permanent end must be put to issuing new licenses to dig wells," he said, noting that current extraction levels should be reduced by at least 14 bcm per annum.
Under the worsening conditions, issuing new licenses for wells means disregarding the future generations' right to water, he warned.
Almost 320,000 illegal wells have been identified and are being sealed gradually.
Iran registered significant improvement in rainfall in March and April when precipitation in most provinces exceeded the average in 50 years.
In related news, the news agency quoted Mohammad Mehdi Javadianzadeh, head of Yazd Regional Water Company, as saying that one million cubic meters of water is drawn annually from under the ground for industrial use in the province.
“We have problems supplying water to large industries due to the severe lack of resources, especially in Khatam County where the conditions care serious cause of concern.”
If the unsustainable water use patterns do not change, water supply to the residents in the county will be cut sooner rather than later, he warned.
The best way to replace groundwater for industries is to use treated wastewater. However, such projects usually take at least three years and are a long time coming, Javadianzadeh said.
Groundwater overdraft can lead to the destruction of vegetation; increase the possibility of dust storms, create sinkholes in the plains, increase salt content in groundwater and worsen land subsidence.
Although industries are the biggest employers and main contributors to value added in the province, “the agriculture sector tops the list of water consumption with the lowest employment rate and insufficient value added,” Javadianzadeh complained.
Yazd Regional Water Company has adopted measures including smart meters or water wells, restricting cultivation of water-intensive crops, improving farming methods, promoting drip irrigation and sealing illegal wells.
Located in the center of Iran where two deserts Dasht-e- Kavir and Dasht-e-Lut meet, the unusually dry province has a yearly precipitation of 49 millimeters and hardly 23 days of rainfall.
The declining pattern of groundwater levels in many regions has turned into a critical national problem, as in most countries both in the developing and developed world.
Plains in Arak and Saveh in Markazi Province are among the most critical areas where water underground water deficit has surpassed 200 million cubic meters due to unsustainable water use by largely by farmers and industries.