Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said here Thursday his ministry has invested in a project to transfer Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman's water to Iran's Sistan-o-Balouchestan and central provinces after desalination to counter draught problems, İRNA reported.
"Since the slat density of the Caspian Sea would have increased highly after desalination of its water and that was a threat against the aqualife there the Department of Environment (DoE) opposed that plan," he said in a meeting with prominent clerics and sources of jurisprudence in Qom.
The energy minister added that therefore his affiliated ministry then proposed transferring of Persian Gulf and Sea of Oman's water to those provinces instead.
Chitchian elaborated on provision of fresh water for various provinces of the country, keeping in mind the drastic decrease of precipitations up to 47% in 15 provinces during the years of lingering draught in central and southern Iranian provinces.
The energy minister also informed the country's top religious personalities that due to water shortage problem the farmers in those areas have resorted to irrigation using well water.
"If those farmers will turn off their electrical pumps during the four high electricity usage hours of the day their electricity consumption during the remaining 20 hours will be free of charge," he said.
Chitchian said that although the water consumption has increased, the existing water resources have decreased ten billion cubic meters and reached 120 billion cubic meters from the previous 130.
The energy minister rejected the proposals made by some provincial governors and Parliament members for more dam construction to resolve the problem.
"Construction of new dams will not add to any water resources and will instead distribute the same resources' waters, while some of the constructed dams have not reserved much water behind them," he said.
Chitchian expressed sorrow that the rate of water waster in Iran is very high, while 92% of the country's water usage is in agricultural activities, in which the expansion of under-pressure irrigation will lead to decreased usage.
Such mega-projects are being implemented in the country as Iranˈs soaring population growth further threatens the country's water resources, already low in much of the country from insufficient rainfall and desert environment.
Some 60% of Iranˈs population is below the age of 25, and continues to increase. Water shortages are expected to remain a key resource problem in Iran, similar to other regions in the Middle East, and cause regional instability if policy-makers do not develop long-term water management strategies, particularly for irrigation projects.
Social and demographic changes, such as changes in living standards, expectations, consumption habits, rural to urban migration, are creating pressures on available water supplies that must be addressed to meet the needs of the growing nation. Practical steps can be taken to reach equilibrium between population and water resources.
The average flow of rivers and aquifers generated from precipitation is limited in all countries, but not population. The population in Iran doubled from 33.7 million in 1976 to 66.1 million in 2001.
Unquestionably, this growth is creating problems. Water availability is considered a severe constraint on socio-economic development and environmental protection when annual internal renewable water resources decrease to 1,000 m3 per capita.
Iranˈs per capita water resources availability decreased to 2,025 m3 in 1990, and is estimated to continue to reach 816 m3 in 2025, according to the United Nations Development Program (UNDP).
Water shortages and pollution affect the country at an almost national level. Devastating droughts are causing vast numbers of rural dwellers to move to urban areas. Consequently, water supplies must be increased through the development and conservation of water resources, and this development cannot be isolated from environmental protection.
Currently, 35% of the total population is suffering from drought and water shortages in northeastern, eastern, southeastern, south and central Iran. The lack of storage dams prevents the practical use of rainfall. Floods occur often.
Tehran city officials began rationing water in 2001 due to water shortages, and this policy may extend to other cities. The government should begin to encourage wastewater recycling, especially in larger cities, to augment water supplies for irrigation.
Untreated industrial wastewater and domestic sewage generated in many Iranian cities are polluting rivers, streams and groundwater. Particularly, the contamination of groundwater from the inadequate handling of domestic sewage is quite common in smaller cities and towns.