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Tehran Water Experts Warn of Dropping Supply

A Tehran water expert has warned of dangerously diminishing water supplies in the Iranian capital.

“The level of underground water supplies in the province of Tehran is dropping 1.30 meters (4.3 feet) each year,” said Mohammad Reza Bakhtiari, director of the Tehran Regional Water Department, according to the Fars News Agency. “As a result of overusing underground water resources, we have been witnessing a 16 centimeter (almost 6.30 inches) subsidence of the land, per annum.”

He also pointed out that out of the nearly 3,200 wells in Tehran Province’s Varamin Plain, only 1,760 of them are legal.

“A total of 370 million cubic meters of water is extracted, of 30 million cubic meters is illegal,” Bakhtiari said. “We have shut down 180 wells this year and, by doing so, have saved 10 million cubic meters of water.”

Underground water is one of the main resources in Varamin Plain, but it has suffered from mismanagement and over-extraction.

In 2015, water expert Mohammad Reza Fatemi had also warned about the dangerous drop in water resources in Tehran Province.

In 2014, “the overuse of supplies led to 1.5 meter drop in the level of underground water resources,” he said.

According to several assessments, the level in Iran’s watersheds has dropped half a meter, on average, over the past 15 years.

The assessments published on the National Geographic website in 2008 indicated that the level of underground waterbeds in Iran dropped about 15 meters between 1971 and 2001.

Iran is located in an arid region of the world, and many parts of it are covered by deserts. Furthermore, drought, substantial declines in rainfall, an overuse of resources, and water mismanagement have led to many of the country’s vital lakes, rivers, and ponds drying up in recent years.

In 2015, however, the head of Environmental Protection Organization, Masoumeh Ebtekar, declared Iran the best in the whole world for extracting underground water resources.

Two years earlier, Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian warned that Iran is relentlessly approaching a water crisis on a daily basis and that it is the stage of “water tension” where the level of national aquifers had dropped nearly 20 meters.

Academic studies in the United States have shown that underground resources provide 20 percent to 30 percent of the world’s drinkable water -- less than 1 percent of the total water resources on Earth.

Moreover, in an interview with the Iranian Students News Agency (ISNA), Mehdi Zare, a professor of earthquake engineering, reiterated that as a result of the land subsidence not only the infrastructure of the region -- including railways, houses, and buildings -- are prone to serious damage. He maintained that this increases the risk of a serious earthquake.

The Iranian Tasnim news agency quoted the director of the Iranian water resources management last October that 330 plains in the country face water crises.

Iran’s water crisis can be a huge drag on its economy, especially the agricultural sector. To deal with this looming danger, not only better planning, management and oversight are needed, but also the water transport infrastructure needs to be rebuilt in many places and well maintained.