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EghtesadOnline: Seventy plus desalination plants that process 309,000 cubic meters of saline water a day opened in the past ten years and cost $250 million, the deputy energy minister for water and wastewater affairs said in Tehran.

“Of the 71 installations, 54 are in the coastal areas in the south, namely Hormozgan, Bushehr and Sistan-Baluchestan provinces. The rest were built in the northern regions including Gilan, Mazandaran and Golestan in collaboration with the National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company of Iran (Abfa),” ILNA quoted Qasem Taqizadeh Khamesi as saying.

Abfa is completing 25 other desalination units that are in different stages of construction in southern areas. “Fourteen plants are expected to become operational by July costing $80 million. When completed 259,000 cubic meters of desalinated water will be added to Abfa’s capacity a day reaching 568,000 cm/d.”

The northern and southern provinces have at least 2,700 kilometers of marine borders, which gives them potential for the development of desalination plans, he said, and noted that investment in desalination infrastructure will create jobs and help curtail water withdrawal from depleting underground ground resources. 

“As the water crisis worsens in the dry regions where underground resources are diminishing rapidly, using unconventional resources, namely saline and treated wastewater, has become inevitable.”

The arid Bushehr and Sistan-Baluchestan regions are among the most water-stressed regions in Iran. Conditions have become so bad that urban authorities send water tankers to some rural areas.

To help ensure sustainable supplies the deputy minister said more desalination plants are needed in the Persian Gulf coastal areas. It takes about 8 liters of seawater to produce between 2.7 and 4 liters of freshwater depending on equipment used.


Low Rainfall

Over the years groundwater has been extracted from aquifers at a faster rate than the recharge because of extremely low rainfall, unorganized urbanization and population growth.

Khamesi said Iran's fledgling desalination industry can and should meet the need for potable water in the Persian Gulf littoral provinces. 

As a result, tapping into the sea to produce clean water is high on the Energy Ministry agenda as it is more feasible in maintaining sustainable supplies rather than deplete the fast dwindling underground resources most of which are fast disappearing.

According to the official, 18 provinces where 60% of the population lives are on the verge of water tension and addressing the crisis has become a major challenge for water managers and policymakers.

Environmentalists and economic experts have warned successive governments in Tehran in the past several decades that the present water consumption patterns at best are unsustainable, namely in the key agro sector that consumes almost 90% of the water in the drought-hit country.    

To tackle the water crisis across continents, desalination has emerged as a solution. In the coastal regions where salt water resources are in abundance, large and semi-large desalination facilities are being built.


Network Expansion

In related news, the Energy Ministry news portal quoted Hamidreza Janbaz, director of Abfa, as saying that Iran’s water supply network now stretches over 460,000 kilometers and expanding the grid to rural areas is a government priority.

The wastewater network is about 66,000 kilometers, which carries sewage to 240 treatment facilities to be recycled and reused for farming and in industries.

Processing wastewater has become fundamental to the growth and development of industries and agriculture. One cubic meter of polluted water contaminates 40 cubic meters of clean water, which further explains why collecting wastewater has become critical to help protect the environment.

According to official reports, 222 wastewater treatment plants are operational and total sewage treatment capacity is 11 million cubic meters per day. Approximately 7.5 billion cubic meters of usable water is produced annually of which 4.3 bcm is wasted. 


Tehran Wastewater Desalination