EghtesadOnline: The daily water deficit in Zahedan, capital of Sistan-Baluchestan Province, is about 100,000 cubic meters, managing director of the provincial Water and Wastewater Company said.
"Water supply to the city, with a population of 900,000 people, is as low as 150,000 cubic meters per day, which is adequate for only 300,000 residents," Alireza Qasemi was also quoted as saying by IRNA.
“At least 250,000 cubic meters of water are needed by Zahedan on a daily basis, but underdeveloped infrastructure has resulted in serious water shortage, pushing people over the edge,” he added.
Located in one of the most arid regions in southeast Iran, Zahedan’s water consumption needs are largely met by groundwater.
In recent years, groundwater is extracted from an aquifer at a faster rate than the recharge because of extremely low rainfall, rapid urban development and high population growth rate, resulting in gradual depletion.
“Zahedan is the only city in Iran with two separate pipelines for drinking and household requirements due to the increasing salinity of groundwater aquifer,” Qasemi said.
Shortage of drinking water has caused officials to focus on developing non-conventional sources, namely desalination of brackish groundwater.
The official noted that three reverse osmosis desalination units (with a total capacity of 20,000 cubic meters per day) have come on stream in the region to purify brackish groundwater to supply a part of the potable water requirements since 2003.
Referring to the fourth desalination plant in Zahedan that is expected to open in April, he said, "By using reverse osmosis technology, the new unit will process 15,000 cubic meters of water per day.
According to the official, as water crisis worsens in the dry region where underground resources are depleting rapidly, using unconventional water resources, namely saline water, has become a compulsion.
Adding to the chronic shortage is the outbreak of coronavirus and the need to observe hygienic protocols.
Consumption in the capital has soared by at least 25% and the water company has appealed to residents to avoid waste and unnecessary use to help avoid supply cuts.
Some 1,700 kilometers of water pipes have been laid so far in the dry province.
Referring to ongoing plans to deal with the acute crisis, the official said some projects are in the final stages, one of which is laying an 80-km pipeline to divert water from Chah-Nimeh reservoirs to Zahedan.
Chah-Nimeh reservoirs are three natural and big basins south of the Sistan Plain and 50 kilometers from Zabol. Surplus water from Hirmand River flows into the three reservoirs through a canal.
The reservoirs, with a capacity of 700 million cubic meters, roughly equal one-seventh of Hamoun Wetland. An estimated 355 million cubic meters evaporate annually from the reservoirs.
Sistan-Baluchestan is the second largest province of Iran, bordering Afghanistan and Pakistan. The region has been struggling with water crises for over two decades. Annually, rainfall averages 105 mm.
More than 50% of the people of the province live in rural areas. But that is fast changing, as more Sistanis are abandoning their homes and villages, and moving to other regions of the country in search of work and a better life.
Close to 250,000 rural people are supplied with drinking water via tankers.
According to provincial authorities, sooner or later, drought will force more than half a million people to migrate, as policy- and decision-makers have been unable to find a sustainable solution to the worsening water crisis that has endangered the livelihood of 2.7 million people in the border regions.
Sistan-Baluchestan was home to the Hamoun Wetlands, which has now dried up, turning the region into a dustbowl. In the place of what was once a thriving oasis, powerful sandstorms have buried villages and shattered livelihoods.
The construction of a dam in neighboring Afghanistan has drastically reduced water resources for the wetlands in Iran, paving the way for more destructive storms.