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Friday, June 21, 2024

Running Dry: The Urgent Call to Action as Iran Faces a Water Crisis

Iran’s reservoirs are experiencing a significant decrease in water levels, primarily attributed to a surge in hydroelectricity production amid shortages exacerbated by high temperatures, drought conditions, and administrative lapses.

On December 17, the ISNA news agency reported that the hydroelectric plant reservoirs in Iran currently stand at a precarious 40 percent of their capacity, indicating an alarming decline.

Official figures indicate a 7 percent increase in water inflow into the reservoirs in December compared to last year. However, the outflow surged by 22 percent, resulting in a year-on-year loss of 1 billion cubic meters of water reserves. This substantial reduction is seemingly driven by a remarkable 57 percent rise in hydroelectric power generation during the initial eight months of the current year.

Data from the Energy Ministry suggests an unprecedented escalation in hydroelectric power production as a response to electricity shortages during the summer due to elevated temperatures.

This heightened water consumption for electricity generation occurs in a nation already grappling with severe water shortages, further exacerbated by the government’s failure to meet its renewable electricity production targets. Despite an initial commitment to generate 2,600 megawatts from solar and wind power this year, only 1 percent of this target has been accomplished. Additionally, out of the pledged extra 6,000 megawatts, only 15 percent has been realized so far, with most new production facilities relying on low-efficiency plants using gas, mazut, and diesel oil.

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Despite Iran being highly vulnerable to climate change in the Middle East, the government’s mismanagement of limited water resources has intensified the shortages, leading to widespread protests, particularly in drought-stricken areas.

Water scarcity has also triggered conflict, exemplified by deadly cross-border clashes between Iran and Afghanistan in May. Tehran demanded increased water release from upstream to sustain its endangered southeastern wetlands, highlighting the geopolitical tensions arising from resource scarcity.

In July, officials warned that over 1 million hectares of the country’s territory—approximately the size of Lebanon—become uninhabitable yearly. The Iranian Meteorological Organization estimates that 97 percent of the country experiences some drought annually.

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