EghtesadOnline: There is a substantial difference between water consumption patterns in the developed and the developing world.
In countries with low to average GDP like Iran, industry accounts for 2% of total water use, while agriculture devours 90%. In the developed world industries and the agro sector account for 59% and 30% of water consumption, respectively.
According to Ali Seyedzadeh, head of the public relations office at the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company of Iran (Abfa), although a developing country, Iran does not reflect these numbers. Agriculture gobbles up 90% of the water while industries use a meager 2%, IRNA reported.
Regarding household use he said of the total 100 billion cubic meters of total annual water demand in Iran 8% is consumed in homes. In the developed world it is 11%.
Drawing parallels between per capita water consumption in Iran and some other countries, he recalled that despite higher precipitation in most developed countries less water is used than in Iran.
Average annual precipitation in Iran (250 millimeters) is 3.4 times less than the global average (860 mm).
Iran’s per capita water consumption is 224 liters per day, which is above most European countries with better access to water, such as Spain (200 liters/day), Sweden (164 liters), Germany (129 liters), Belgium (112 liters), Denmark (159 liters), the UK (153 liters), Austria (153 liters), Ireland (142 liters), the Netherlands (129 liters), Finland (213 liters) and Italy (213 liters).
However, Iran’s per capita water consumption is below countries such as Switzerland (252 liters), Australia (268 liters), the US (259 liters) and Canada (326 liters). These countries have access to significantly more water resources.
Iran has a hot, dry climate and is located in the world’s most water-stressed region. Factors such as unreasonably low tariffs, increasing population, disorganized urbanization and (unsustainable) development of industries and farm sectors are taking a heavy toll on its renewable water resources.
If effective action is not taken to address the water problem, the country will approach a point of no return sooner rather than later, the Abfa official warned.
To add insult to injury, a mind-boggling 700 million cubic meters of water is wasted annually when the nation’s prominent environmentalists and economic experts are struggling to find meaningful ways to curb consumption and waste.
Need for Sustainability
It is high time Iranians started taking the water crisis seriously. Those in charge need to double their efforts to increase public awareness and brainstorm ways to reduce demand. Finding new water resources, albeit if possible, would only delay the inevitable.
Prioritizing sustainable water use, minimizing waste, rewriting water tariff policies, modernizing farming practices and reducing water pollution will help deal with the worsening water deficit.
According to the official, treating and supplying one cubic meter of water in the sprawling capital costs 10 cents, but subscribers are charged less than 3 cents.
“A revised policy is essential for water tariffs to narrow the widening gap between Abfa costs and revenue.”
The huge difference between what consumers pay and the cost of water treatment and supply has pushed the state-owned Abfa into the red to the tune of $120 million.
According to UN reports, almost half the world’s population will be living in areas of high water stress by 2030, including between 75 million and 250 million people in Africa. In addition, water scarcity in some arid and semi-arid places —such as Iran — will displace between 24 million and 700 million people.
By 2025, 1.8 billion people will be living in countries or regions with absolute water scarcity and two-thirds of the world’s population could be living under water stressed conditions.
What this means is that countries such as Iran will inevitably be hit hard. However, if immediate measures are taken and short- and long-term plans are devised, the country may be able to weather the proverbial storm and reduce the impact of the looming water crisis.