EghtesadOnline: Desalinated water accounts for a meager 0.1% of the total annual water consumption in Iran while in some neighboring countries like Saudi Arabia it is 70%.
Iran's annual water consumption is about 99 billion cubic meters, of which less than 100 million cubic meters (per annum) is produced via 60 desalination plants in the coastal regions, namely Khuzestan, Hormozgan and Bushehr, ILNA reported.
Approximately 142 million cubic meters of seawater is desalinated on a daily basis around the globe. However, Iran's share is a meager 250,000 cubic meters.
Although Iran is located in an arid and semi-arid area, access to vast resources of saltwater in the north (Caspian Sea) and south (Persian Gulf) is a major advantage that has not been used as expected.
Two decades of drought are taking a severe toll on Iran’s depleting water resources. To handle the worsening water crisis, desalination is becoming a viable option in many countries where seawater is in abundance.
According to Shahin Pakrouh, deputy chief engineer at the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company, 25 desalination facilities are under construction in Mazandaran, Sistan-Baluchestan, Semnan, Alborz, Isfahan, Kerman and Ilam provinces. When completed in 2022, desalination capacity should reach 500,000 cubic meters a day.
“Desalination can [and should] produce a large amount of water for farming and industries.”
Tapping the sea for water is on the Energy Ministry agenda as a verified option for sustainable supplies rather than depleting the dwindling underground tables, most of which are on the verge of drying up causing serious concern among economic experts and conservationists.
One Possible Solution
NEAs per the Sixth Five-Year Economic Development Plan (2017-22), 36% of potable water in the northern and southern coastal regions should come from desalination units.
Worldwide, desalination is increasingly seen as one possible answer to problems of water quantity and quality that will worsen with global population growth and the extreme heat and prolonged drought linked to climate change.
Most desalination plants in the world are in the parched Middle East and their numbers are bound to soar as water shortages emerge as growing threat to human welfare, livelihoods and economies.
Rising water demand and diminishing supplies are exacerbating water paucity in most world regions, including Iran.
“Conventional reliance on rainwater and river runoff in water deficit regions are no longer sufficient to meet growing demand. That is why unconventional water resources, such as reclaimed and desalinated water, are gradually playing a role in narrowing the deficit in parched regions like Bushehr Province,” Pakrouh said.
Bushehr Conditions Barely Improving
In related news, the Energy Ministry news portal quoted Jaber Mozafarizadeh, head of water quality department in Bushehr Water and Wastewater Company, as saying despite the visible reduction in per capita water consumption in southern Bushehr Province, the region is still struggling with severe water shortages.
“Annual per capita consumption has declined from 10,000 to 7,000 cubic meters in the past few years, but sill the province’s annual water deficit is in the neighborhood of 30 million cubic meters.”
One effective way to tackle the water paucity in the area is to collect and treat unconventional water resources including wastewater and grey water, the official said, adding that collection and use of agricultural drainage water can also help.
Unconventional water resources are those that are generated as a by-product of specialized processes such as desalination; or that need suitable pre-use treatment before use for irrigation.
The importance of water reuse as a solution to Iran’s mounting water problems has increased significantly in recent years. Many regions namely Isfahan, Yazd, Hormozgan and Semnan are pooling minds to reuse water either with the help of wastewater facilities or large-scale desalination plants.
Underground water resources meet an estimated 57% of the domestic water demand in households, farming and industries in Iran. The balance (43%) comes from renewable resources.