Water-intensive industries should use wastewater to contain drought
Water-intensive industries should use wastewater to contain drought
In order to prevent soil erosion and water stress, industries should give more attention to watershed management, dredging and runoff control, new irrigation methods, and wastewater treatment.

TEHRAN (Iran News) – In order to prevent soil erosion and water stress, industries should give more attention to watershed management, dredging and runoff control, new irrigation methods, and wastewater treatment.

The average rainfall in the semi-arid country of Iran is 250 mm, which is one-third of the world average. Iran’s 53-year average rainfall was 250 mm, which has decreased to 232 mm in the last 13 years. Parallel to this decrease, the increasing trend of temperature caused the increase in evaporation and decrease of precipitations and the sharp drop in the level of underground water resources and its limitation.

Due to the importance of underground water resources, this year the United Nations has chosen the theme of “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible” for World Water Day, celebrated on March 22.

Studies show that the downward trend of aquifers has caused an annual deficit of 4.4 billion cubic meters of water reservoirs. Nevertheless, water consumption increased and reached an annual figure of 98 billion cubic meters, nearly 90 percent of which is consumed by the agricultural sector.

According to the index standard of the United Nations Sustainable Development Commission, Iran is in a severe crisis in terms of water resources.

Long-term climate forecasts also show that Iran is on the path of long-term water tensions and its water resources are rapidly decreasing.

Experts consider the imbalance of underground water resources to be the cause of land subsidence, increase in sand and dust storms, drying up of wetlands, swamps, etc., which can lead to water wars.

The limitation of freshwater resources and their strategic importance has now become a powerful tool for the countries that have the most water resources. Only 3 percent of the world’s water resources are fresh.

In Iran, a large amount of underground water has been harvested more than 136 billion cubic meters. Some 65 percent of drinking water in the country is supplied from underground water sources.

The climate and environmental change summit held by the United Nations (COP 26) in Glasgow, Scotland, is a sign of the super-challenge that has caused climate change.

The warning of floods as the second major global challenge after the population crisis was raised decades ago by experts, universities, and international institutions, especially the United Nations.

Last year, Iran passed the driest water year in the past 52 years. According to the country’s Drought Monitoring Center, during this period, all provinces had less than normal rainfall and severe to very severe drought prevailed in the country. According to the prediction of the water stress map index in 2040, Iran is the 13th country that faces water stress.

In Iran, 90 percent of water is used by the agricultural sector, 8 percent by households, and 2 percent by industries. In developed countries, this figure is 30 percent for the agricultural sector, 11 percent for households, and 59 percent for industries.

Ways to curb water stress

Management of resources and water consumption in the country is among the strategic and priority programs, especially in the documents. In order to realize these plans, curb the drought, and protect the country’s water resources, the Ministry of Energy cannot overcome the water crisis alone. The rescue and protection of water resources depend on the efforts and cooperation of all relevant ministries, organizations, and institutions in the water and sewage industry.

For example, the expansion of water-intensive industries such as steel, mineral water production factories, and gardens, especially in areas with low water and low rainfall, should be prevented in any way possible.

Mines and mineral industries are other similar sectors that require policy-making and regulatory, executive, and legislative measures to revise inappropriate patterns of water consumption and wastewater management.

The water demand management strategy in the water industry should replace the water supply management strategy. Demand management includes plans and decisions that delay investment in the construction of new water resources.

Due to the lack of programs for the sustainable supply of water in the southern coastal provinces, the development and establishment of the water desalination industry should be included in the priority programs of the government.

Compared to Arab countries, Iran’s contribution to the implementation of freshwater supply projects from the Persian Gulf and the Sea of Oman is very small. The UAE with a daily capacity of about 10 million cubic meters and Saudi Arabia with a daily capacity of about 8 million cubic meters are in first and second places, while Iran has a daily capacity of just 1.2 million cubic meters.

Moreover, 90 percent of water consumption in the agricultural sector should be reduced quickly by promoting pressurized irrigation and expanding the greenhouse cultivation model.

Today, in many countries, wastewater is treated and recycled. By conducting numerous types of research, the difference in the economic value and use of wastewater in various industries should be determined to use wastewater in some sectors in order to ease water stress.

In order to prevent soil erosion, reduce wastage and optimal management of water and increase water reserves, those involved in water and agricultural industries and machinery should pay more attention to watershed management, continuous dredging, and control of runoff water, expansion of new irrigation methods and dryland farming.

One step to water crisis

Since ancient times, Iran has been constantly struggling with water shortage, which caused the creation of qanats, so that people actually accepted that water is scarce in the country.

But for several years, along with the industrial and agricultural development, it seems that the available water resources have been used unbridled, and the result is being on the verge of a water crisis.

In fact, entering a water crisis is an index that is measured based on the amount of water available per cubic meter per person per year, according to this index, if a country has more than 1,700 cubic meters of water per person per year, there is no problem with water resources.

However, if this amount goes below 1,000 cubic meters per person per year, we will enter a water crisis from water stress.

The predictions of some international forums show that Iran will reach 500 cubic meters of water per capita in 2050, which will be disastrous.

 4.8m people at medium to high risk 

The Iranian Red Crescent Society estimates that 4.8 million people are at medium to high risk of drought-related impacts, mostly in remote and rural areas of the provinces.

It reports that 29 of 31 provinces, and especially seven – South Khorasan, Kerman, Sistan-Baluchestan, Hormozgan, Khuzestan, Isfahan, and Khorasan Razavi – have been severely affected by the drought. The lack of safe and sufficient water supply for drinking, hygiene, agriculture, animal husbandry, and electrical power is having a devastating and increasingly unsustainable strain on households’ health, and income in addition to encouraging negative social trends and coping mechanisms.

Drought has so far incurred a loss of 28 trillion rials (about $107 million) to the environment, Hassan Akbari, deputy head of natural environment and biodiversity of the Department of Environment, said in May.

Unfortunately, over 70 percent of the country is suffering from severe drought. The severity of the drought is devastating in areas such as the Zagros, which is both a source of water and natural habitats, he lamented.

Droughts may affect three-quarters of the world by 2050

The United Nations has warned that droughts may affect over three-quarters of the world’s population by 2050.

Droughts are among the greatest threats to sustainable development, especially in developing countries, but increasingly so in developed nations too.

The number and duration of droughts have increased by 29 percent since 2000, as compared to the two previous decades (WMO 2021). When more than 2.3 billion people already face water stress, this is a huge problem. More and more of us will be living in areas with extreme water shortages, including an estimated one in four children by 2040 (UNICEF). No country is immune to drought (UN-Water 2021).

  • source : Tehrantimes