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    Majlis says water shortage now reaches crisis stage, but little is done about it

    waterA Majlis report says the water shortage in the country has reached crisis proportions.
    According to the daily Shahrvand, the report says that more than 6,000 towns across Iran now have to have their drinking water brought in by tanker truck.
    It said that of Iran’s 500-plus aquifers, water extraction is now banned in a majority, 319 of them, up from just 15 four decades ago.
    Recently, the government reported that rainfall across the country this water year, which began in October, is down by 20 percent compared to last year, which was also a drought year. Since Iran’s rainy season is the winter, the shortage is not likely to be made up in the remaining four months of the year. What’s more, Sattar Mahmudi, the deputy minister of energy, said last year’s rainfall was the lowest since 1967-68, 47 years ago.
    In May, the Energy Ministry, which handles water issues, said rationing would be required this summer if the public did not conserve. But nothing further has been heard about that. Last year, the Energy Ministry announced in June that water would be rationed in the capital, but canceled the plan in July without explanation.
    At Now Ruz, President Rohani asked the public to reduce household usage of water by 10 percent. But Tehran’s water director said usage needed to be cut by 20 percent. Tehran has one-eight of the country’s population but consumes one-quarter of the country’s potable water.
    The Majlis Agriculture Committee has complained that despite warnings and exhortations from government leaders, the government has no plan for coping with the accelerating water crisis.
    It isn’t always clear how much attention official remarks deserve. For example, last August, Iranian media outlets quoted Mohammad Parvaresh, the managing director of the Tehran Water and Wastewater Company, as saying Tehran’s reservoirs would run out of water in 30 days. Eleven months later, the water is still flowing and official talk about the reservoirs is now rare, although no one claims the reservoirs are filling up.
    There are in a sense two separate water issues. One is the availability of potable (drinking) water for urban areas. The other is the availability of irrigation water for agriculture. Both are in short supply in most, but not all, parts of the country.
    After the revolution, the Islamic Republic issued permits by the thousands authorizing the drilling of wells to extract more water from aquifers and promote the expansion of agriculture in pursuit of the goal of self-sufficiency in food. According to Radio Zamaneh in the Netherlands, “Experts now consider [this] to be the chief cause of the drastic decline in water resources” in farming areas.
    About 93 percent of Iran’s annual water usage goes to agriculture, according to Iran’s Environmental Protection Administration. By comparison, in the United States, about 84 percent of annual freshwater usage goes to agriculture. The US is a huge agricultural producer and one of the world’s major exporters of agricultural products.
    Only about 6 percent of the water consumed in the United States is used in homes. And three-quarters of that water goes for showers and flushing toilets.
    Many water scientists in Iran have studied water usage in the country and report that much of the water used in agriculture is wasted because the usual irrigation method is to flood fields, as a result of which much of the water evaporates. In cities, much of the water is also wasted because pipes are old and huge volumes of water simply leak out before reaching residences.
    The main effort of UN water programs around the world is to convince farmers to use better methods of irrigation, such as drip irrigation, in which water is delivered drop-by-drop to the base of each individual plant.

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