The Iranian water crisis

Conservation Iran


In 2013 faced with a critical shortage of water, the Iranian government called for water conservation and greater water use efficiency nation-wide. Despite imminent shortages, water use in Iran remains inefficient, with domestic use 70 per cent higher than the global average. Iran has a national population of 75 million people, 12 million of whom reside in the capital; demand for water is rapidly increasing, even as major lakes and groundwater resources begin to shrink. Population growth, more frequent droughts and the effects of climate change are creating the ‘perfect storm’ for future water insecurity. We are left with the question, are the proposed changes too little, too late?

Key points

  • Iran is facing a serious and protracted water crisis.
  • Due to long-term government mismanagement and lack of planning, achieving water security in Iran will require significant policy reform and strong governance.
  • Unmetered access and widespread dam development have altered Iran’s natural water systems, causing degradation, reduced land productivity, shrinking lakes and whole communities left without access to water.
  • Real water savings can be made through targeted campaigns and initiatives addressing domestic water wastage and irrigation efficiency.
  • While President Rouhani has emphasised the need for water reforms in Iran, it is unlikely that planned changes will significantly alter Iran’s water insecurity in the short term.
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