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Iran And Its Neighbors Face 'Extraordinary Water Crisis' - Report

In this July 10, 2018 photo, a row of bird-shaped paddle boats sit on the parched Zayandeh Rood riverbed, in Isfahan, Iran.

The World Resources Institute's (WRI) latest report says that Iran, along with Israel, Lebanon, and Qatar, are struggling with an "extraordinary water crisis."

The three are among the most water-stressed countries, according to the new data, consuming an average of 80% of their available water resources every year.

Under these circumstances, "even small dry shocks – which are set to increase due to climate change – can produce dire consequences," the institute warned in a statement.

Iran, immediately after Qatar, Lebanon, and Israel, ranks #4 at the top of the table of the countries suffering from water stress.

The new data from WRI's Aqueduct tools reveal that 17 countries, home to one-quarter of the world's population, face "extremely high" levels of baseline water stress, where irrigated agriculture, industries, and municipalities withdraw more than 80% of their available supply on average every year.

Meanwhile, Iran cannot seek assistance from its neighboring countries since they are all struggling with a similar problem.

Twelve out of seventeen countries facing severe water stress, including Qatar, Lebanon, Israel, Kuwait, Saudi Arabia, United Arab Emirates, India, Pakistan, and the Republic of Turkmenistan, all located in the vicinity of Iran.

India, as the most populated country suffering from water stress, is in the worst condition in a sense. Ranking 13 on Aqueduct's list of "extremely high" water-stressed countries, India has more than three times the population of the other 16 states in this category combined, the WRI report says.

Northern India faces severe groundwater depletion, visualized on Aqueduct's maps and included in calculations of water stress for the first time, according to the report.

The reasons for these crises go far deeper than drought: Through new hydrological models, WRI found that water withdrawals globally have more than doubled since the 1960s due to growing demand – and they show no signs of slowing down.

Last January, the head of Iran's national center for strategic agriculture and water management studies, Mohammad Hossein Shariatmadar insisted that "water mismanagement" has pushed the country into a corner where it "is only five years away from an all-encompassing water disaster as a result of five decades of mismanagement."

Furthermore, the head of Islamic Republic's Department of Environment (DoE) and deputy President, Isa Kalantari asserted on August 9, 2018, "The looming water crisis in Iran is much more severe than what has already been predicted,", adding, "There will be no water in Iran within less than fifty years".

This year, Iran experienced torrential rains and floods, which filled most of its dams, but after years of drought and heavy use of underground natural reservoirs, one year of plenty can hardly save the situation.

The Islamic Republic authorities have repeatedly warned about the shortage of water in recent years. In fact, many experts have argued that water can run out sooner than Iran's oil reserves.

Isa Kalantari had earlier warned that more than 70% of Iran's population is facing water shortage and the volume of consumption per person has passed the "critical" point.

Director of Iran's Desert Studies Center, Professor Parviz Kardovani has been warning over the water crisis in the country for more than a decade.

"Large swathes of Iran will be on track for severe water shortage in fifty years," Kardovani cautioned about a decade ago, adding, "Because of excessive water consumption, the Central Plateau of Iran will be facing water crisis within half a century."

Citing these ominous predictions, DoE's head, Kalantari described Kardavani's remarks as "over-optimistic," noting, "Iran will be left with no water much sooner than fifty years."

Lambasting proponents of population growth in Iran, Kalantari had earlier said, "Stop repeating the shibboleth and saying our country is great. Our resources are limited."

Kalantari had previously echoed other experts' warnings, asserting, "Iran's 8,000-year-old civilization will be destroyed if the level of our water consumption is not reduced."

He further warned that if Iran does not change its approach to water use, the result would be mass migration.