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A historical investigation on water resources management in Iran

Abstract

Swarming water-related problems are threatening many arid and semiarid regions of the earth, and Iran is no exception. Integrating such problems with health, environmental, political, socioeconomic, and sustainability issues has greatly increased demand for managing the problems. This research investigates the Iranians abilities in managing, developing, and maintaining their water resources throughout different traditional, transitional, and modern time periods. The study shows until the mid-transitional period, owning to the low population and large per capita water availability, Iranians did not feel a great need to make upgrades and alterations in managing water. In the late transitional period, after sending students to the West and founding advanced universities, gradually modern hydrological technologies started appearing in the major cities. In the modern era, population explosion, industry’s development, consumerism culture, and unprecedented urbanization coupled with drought and global warming, have brought many difficulties for water sectors. Hence, the desire for supply-based policies has prevailed, and some strategies, such as deep-pumped well drilling, dam building, and inter-basin water transferring, have been undertaken to fix the problems. However, the water resource sustainability not only has not improved, but has worsened through imprudent policies such as food self-sufficiency and subsidizing water. Groundwater over-abstraction, soil–water degradation, shrinking and drying up of water bodies, intensifying flood hazards, dust storming, agricultural and ecological losses, and depopulation of rural areas are among direct and indirect evidence that confirm this claim. In conclusion, if these problems persist, the country will be at risk from water insecurity and water access conflicts.

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Fig. 1

Modified based on Frenken (2009) and FAO (2008)

Fig. 2

After Rahimi et al. (2013)

Fig. 3

Modified and updated based on the raw data of Ardakanian (2003), Alizadeh and Keshavarz (2005), Keshavarz et al. (2005) and IWRMC (2012)

Fig. 4

Raw data based on Iran Water Resources Management Company (2012) and FAO (2008)

Fig. 5

After Delauncey (2017)

Fig. 6

After Alemohammad and Gharari (2010)

Fig. 7

Source data after Gurbuz and Yilmaz (2007)

Fig. 8

After Kousari et al. (2011)

Notes

  1. 1.

    Center for South Asian and Middle Eastern Studies.

  2. 2.

    Statistical Center of Iran.

  3. 3.

    Islamic Republic of Iran Meteorological Organization.

  4. 4.

    Iran Water Resources Management Company.

  5. 5.

    Tehran Regional Water Authority.

  6. 6.

    Agricultural Planning and Economic Research Institute.

  7. 7.

    National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company.

  8. 8.

    National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center.

  9. 9.

    General Circulation Model.

  10. 10.

    Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change.

  11. 11.

    Khuzestan Water and Power Organization.

  12. 12.

    United Nations International Strategy for Disaster Reduction.

  13. 13.

    Global Water Partnership.

  14. 14.

    United Nations Development Program.

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Saatsaz, M. A historical investigation on water resources management in Iran. Environ Dev Sustain 22, 1749–1785 (2020). https://doi.org/10.1007/s10668-018-00307-y

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Keywords

  • Iran
  • Groundwater
  • Semi-arid area
  • Sustainable development
  • Water management
  • Water shortage