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EghtesadOnline: Water in 16 dams in and around West Azarbaijan Province has shrunk by 250 million cubic meters compared to last year, director of the provincial regional water company said.

“Dams now hold 750 cm of water, down 25% from last October when it was close to a billion cubic meters,” Atabak Jafari was reported as saying by IRNA.

Giving some numbers, he said Boukan, Aqchai, Shahre-Chai, Mahabad, Aras and Karamabad dams hold 214 mcm, 162 mcm, 110 mcm, 82 mcm, 1mcm and 2 mcm, respectively.

Average precipitation in the province reached 375 millimeters in the last water year that ended in September -- down 23% compared to the corresponding period in 2018-2019.

“The volume of water in the province, stretching over 44,000 sq km, is estimated at 8.2 bcm of which 4.7 bcm comes from snow and rainfall.”

Of the total around 1.7 bcm flows into the region from neighboring provinces namely East Azarbaijan and the balance is extracted from shrinking underground resources

Rapidly declining access to water has compelled regional officials to raise the number of plains from which water withdrawal is forbidden to 27. There are 35 plains in the area.

According to Jafari, stored water in dams is used to supply 3.4 million people potable water and irrigate 114,000 hectares of fruit orchards, namely apple trees.

The regional water company has so far diverted 1.5 bcm of dam water to the troubled Urmia Lake in the same region. Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, the lake has been struggling with serious water deficit for years. 

“If water level in dams does not increase, much less water will be available for the lake in the current water year.”


Depleting Aquifers

In related news, IRNA quoted Yadollah Soltani, head of the Water and Wastewater Company (Abfa) in Khoy (the second largest county in West Azarbaijan), as saying that water paucity in the region has intensified with the depletion of groundwater aquifers, digging new wells and delays in building dams on rivers.

“Khoy’s population is 395,000 and is struggling with chronic water shortages for drinking, industry and farming for many years.”

Construction of new dams, repairing old networks to curb seepage and transferring water from Aqchai Dam to Khoy are among options to deal with the crisis. But these are long-term solutions and cannot solve the present pressing problems, he added.

A decade ago it was decided to supply water for drinking, industries and agriculture in Khoy by constructing the Ghazan Dam. The project remains on paper, Adel Najafzadeh, a lawmaker representing the people of Khoy and Chaypareh said.

Water for Khoy is supplied through 100 wells. However, the declining pattern of groundwater levels has become a serious cause of concern. If this continues, it will make a bad situation worse in the not too distant future, he said.

“There are no dams or other facilities to control surface water; therefore, groundwater resources are the only way to meet drinking water needs.”

West Azarbaijan, which borders Turkey, Iraq and the Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, trades through five land border crossings, namely Poldasht, Bazargan, Razi, Sarv and Tamarchin.

Steel, food, dates, flooring, cables and farm products (watermelon, walnut, plums, tomatoes, almond, and apples) are the region’s main exports.


Azarbaijan water shortages egional water company