Assessment of potential of intraregional conflicts by developing a transferability index for inter-basin water transfers, and their impacts on the water resources

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Rapid population growth, rising water demands, inefficient management, and various distributions of water are the major causes of increased pressure on water resources and the consequent increased water-based conflicts especially in arid and semi-arid regions in Iran being a case in point. Iran is the second largest country in the Middle East. The country-wide average annual precipitation is about 250 mm, which is about one third of the world’s average. Therefore, Iran is one of the driest countries in the world. The water supply for human activities in Iran’s provinces has become an increasingly complex task. One of the conventional methods to supply water to these regions is through inter-basin water transfers, from water-endowed regions to water-scarce regions. For such projects, it is necessary but also difficult and expensive to estimate the total water storage of every province with traditional methods. This study employs the GRACE satellite data for 2002–2016 are used and develops a method to assess the linkage between water scarcity and conflicts in Iran’s provinces. In addition, a transferability index is formulated based on population and conveyable water parameters demonstrating the conditions of the provinces in inter-basin water transfer for reaching equitable compromises. This index leads to an evaluation of the possibility of conflicts arising from inter-basin water transfer projects in Iran. This work’s results show that the Bushehr region has a significant amount of conveyable water and low population and hence is suitable to be one of the water-exporting provinces in the inter-basin water projects. The results of this work also demonstrate that the western provinces are likely to experience serious depletion of water resources, and conflicts may arise in the western and central basins due to the changes in water quantity exacerbated by the inter-basin transfer projects.

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Correspondence to Omid Bozorg-Haddad.

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Bozorg-Haddad, O., Abutalebi, M., Chu, X. et al. Assessment of potential of intraregional conflicts by developing a transferability index for inter-basin water transfers, and their impacts on the water resources. Environ Monit Assess 192, 40 (2020).

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  • Inter-basin water transfer
  • Water resources
  • Water conflicts
  • Transferability index