EghtesadOnline: The Majlis Research Center said urban wastewater networks and sewage collection facilities have been expanding but the same is not true for rural areas.
Sewage systems came to the villages long after cities and less than 0.5% of Iran's rural population are linked to wastewater utilities, the MRC said, ISNA reported.
The report said of the total urban population 51% (300 cities) are connected to the wastewater systems and many municipal regions and almost all rural areas are still deprived of it. Absorbing wells are used to dispose wastewater.
The problem with absorbing wells is that a part of the wastewater enters surface water and groundwater networks and harms drinking water quality.
Besides contaminating potable water, untreated sewage can also harm marine and wildlife, expands oxygen depletion, restricts recreational water use and fish farming.
Based on data from the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company (Abfa), 220 wastewater treatment plants are operating (in big cities) with an annual output of about 4 billion cubic meters of processed wastewater, a part of which is unused due to lack of customers.
Abfa has said it is in the process of expanding the system but due to financial constraints expanding sewage infrastructure to small towns is not a priority, for now.
According to Abfa, the processed sewage is largely used for agriculture, industrial activities, green spaces, stream augmentation and aquifer recharge.
An average 70% of water consumed in households turns into sewage of which less than 50% is reclaimed.
Before the 1979 revolution in Iran, wastewater treatment and reclamation was virtually non-existent. Concerted efforts were made in the 1990's and by 2001 there were 39 wastewater plants with a total capacity of 712,000 cm per day treating wastewater produced by almost 3.8 million people.
According to the MRC report, processing wastewater has become fundamental to the growth of industries and agriculture. One cubic meter of polluted water contaminates 40 cubic meters of clean water, which explains why collecting wastewater has become critical to help protect the environment.
The MRC complained that the average volume of water used in Iran to produce metals, namely gold and copper, is five times above international norms, putting the industries in an untenable position.
Worldwide less than 400 cubic meters of water is used to mine one kilogram of gold, whereas in Iran it is 2,000 cubic meters.
The report said Iranian companies use 200 cubic meters of water to produce one ton of copper that is at least five times above other copper producing companies. For cement and sand the consumption is 900 cubic meters per ton.
More than 128 cubic meters of water is required to produce one ton of steel and based on the government’s target to annually produce 45 million tons of steel by 2021, close to 6 billion cubic meters of water will be needed, which is more than 7% of the total used for farming.
The worsening water crisis in Iran has put mounting pressure on domestic steel companies to innovate and improve productivity. Most steel plants are facing strong opposition from conservationists, economic experts and environmentalists as water resources dry up and demand keeps on rising.
According to the report, to preserve the precious resource, the Energy Ministry is pushing industries and farmers to use reclaimed water. Huge investments have gone into water treatment plants and desalination units, the last of which is the controversial $800 million project launched last week to bring water from the Persian Gulf to the desert province of Kerman in southeast Iran.
The government hopes that by making treated wastewater safer and more accessible for industries and agriculture will have a positive effect in preserving drinking water.