Isfahan Woes Worsened by Illegal Water Wells, Land Subsidence
EghtesadOnline: In the past 16 years, a total of 7,635 unauthorized water wells have been sealed in Isfahan Province, which helped save over 215 million cubic meters of water a year in the dry region, deputy of conservation and operations at the Isfahan Regional Water Company said.
“Only since the beginning of the current Iranian year, 448 illegal wells have been sealed,” Mahmoud Chitian said. “In order to protect the existing groundwater resources, 2,705 smart meters have been installed in the province so far,” Mehr News Agency quoted him as saying.
A smart electricity meter digitally sends meter readings to energy suppliers and ensures accurate billing. Smart meters also come with monitors so that users can see and better understand their consumption.
Utilities in many developed and developing countries are promoting advanced electricity meters for economic and environmental reasons, especially to cut costs and reduce consumption.
“Illegal wells, improper consumption and over-extraction from groundwater resources, as well as the flouting of the water rights of Zayandehroud and Gavkhouni Wetland have made Isfahan Plains to suffer from land subsidence,” Chitian said.
The official rued that as a result of water resource mismanagement in the past decades and its adverse consequences, which include digging of illegal wells and unsustainable agricultural development, many aquifers and groundwater resources have been emptied today.
According to Isfahan Regional Water Company data, there are 42,349 authorized wells in the central province that extract an average of 3.5 billion cubic meters of water annually.
Water Issues Linger
Underground water resources in the parched Isfahan Province are depleting by 3.6 billion cubic meters per annum.
Although unauthorized water wells are sealed constantly in the province, the water deficit issue still exists; the reason is that as more wells are sealed, the more farmers dig illegally. This is why the well sealing programs are not producing the desired results in the main farming regions and in areas where people own big horticultural land.
Imposing stringent rules and spreading the culture of frugal consumption together can help put an end to the vicious cycle, as 80% of the province are suffering from dry and disturbing water conditions to varying degrees.
There is no dry-land farming in Isfahan due to low precipitation (120 millimeters a year). Groundwater tables and aquifers supply most of the farming needs. Only 569,000 hectares (about 5%) of the province’s 10 million hectares are arable.
Located in an arid region with minimal rain, Isfahan has been struggling with drought for years, which has resulted in the drying up of the famous Zayandehroud river.
Zayandehroud originates in the mountains of Chaharmahal-Bakhtiari Province and flows eastward toward Isfahan before ending up in Gavkhouni Wetland. Officials say Isfahan's struggle with drought has made it difficult to supply farms with dam water while upholding the water rights of Zayandehroud and Gavkhouni.
Disorganized urbanization, old and obsolete farming practices and the presence of water-intensive industries such as Mobarakeh Steel Company are putting increasing pressure on the region’s rapidly dwindling water reserves.
Energy Ministry data show that the number of wells in Iran has increased by 1,400% over the past six decades, resulting in a slow but steady land subsidence in the country.
Though reversing land subsidence is now not possible, slowing its progress is doable if the will exists and the government and public cooperate.
Besides land subsidence, groundwater overdraft may lead to destruction of vegetation, increase dust storms and cause holes in the plains and higher salt content in groundwater.
Land subsidence caused by the substantial decline in groundwater resources is expanding in Isfahan and has reached a critical juncture in some parts of the province.
Close to 2.5 million residents in the region are being unsettled by the gradual or sudden sinking of the ground.
Rapidly declining water resources have impelled water officials in the arid province to increase the number of plains from which water withdrawal is banned to 30. There are totally 35 plains in the region.
Based on estimates by organizations like the International Association of Hydrological Sciences, if a piece of land sinks 4 millimeters a year, it is in critical conditions and the residents of the region are in danger.
The land is sinking by about 40 centimeters in Borkhar and Mahyar plains annually, which is 100 times more than the global standards.