EghtesadOnline: Overextraction from renewable and underground water resources in Mazandaran Province has become a new and serious challenge, managing director of the Regional Water Company said.
“Close to 180 million cubic meters of water is extracted from aquifers via 2,500 unauthorized wells in the area,” IRNA quoted Mohammad Ebrahim Yakhkeshi as saying.
There are about 142,000 authorized wells in the region from which 1.3 billion million cubic meters of water is withdrawn annually, he said, and added that declining water resources has compelled the water company to increase the number of plains from which water withdrawal is banned.
“Deficits from underground sources in Behshahr, Neka and Gelougah counties have reached 30 mcm and issuing new licenses to dig wells should be stopped.”
Renewable water resources in the region stands at about 6 bmc, of which 4.5 bcm comes from surface water and the rest from underground sources.
Referring to more serious concerns, he noted that most rice farmers reuse their paddy fields for a second harvest – known as ratoon crop – and this puts water resources under renewed pressure. About 2.3 bcm of water is used every year in the region for crops, 70% of which is from rivers.
The Regional Water Company is in charge of 850 water conservation ponds, 2 large dams and 9 small dams. Rivers which pass through the province extend over 7,000 kilometers.
Yakhkeshi said controlling the runoff in northern Mazandaran is essential and can have economic benefits as water can be used for rice cultivation.
“Haraz Dam [under construction] has the capacity to control about 14% of the province's surface water and can positively affect the farming community.”
When operational, the dam will help cut rice import, he said. Iran is among the major rice importers in the world.
Haraz Dam is designed to supply 110,000 hectares, mostly paddies, drinking water to 14 cities and 500 villages. It also will help a 25-megawatt hydropower plant annually generate 170 gigawatt hours.
“Construction of the dam, located 20 km south of Amol, started in 2009. But work has been slow due to funding constraints,” he said.
There are 230,000 hectares of paddy fields in the northern province, producing one million tons of rice per annum or 42% of the total consumption. Iranians consume 3.5 million tons of rice a year. Domestic production is 2.9 million tons.
The country imports from India, Pakistan, Thailand, Turkey, Iraq and the UAE. Every year during the rice harvest season, the government bans rice imports to support local farmers.
“By controlling surface water in Mazandaran, 300,000 tons of rice can be added to the annual output,” Yakhkeshi added.
Regarding potable water in the province, he said 95% of the drinking water comes from groundwater sources, the quality of which has been declining.
Mazandaran Province is located along the southern coast of the Caspian Sea and adjacent to the central Alborz Mountain range. It is a major producer of farmed fish, and aquaculture provides an important economic addition to traditional dominance of agriculture.
Over 70 kinds of agricultural products are grown in Mazandaran. It meets 40% of domestic demand for rice and 50% of citrus fruits. The province is the sole domestic kiwi supplier.