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Water crisis in iran: codification and strategies in urban water


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WATER CRISIS IN IRAN: CODIFICATION AND STRATEGIES IN URBAN WATER
Dr H.Motiee*, GH. Manouchehri**, Dr M.R.M. Tabatabai***
* Assistant Professor, Water and Wastewater Eng. Dept., PWIT, P.O.Box 16765-1719, Tehran, Iran.E- mail: motiee_h@yahoo.com

** Director of Water and Wastewater Company, Tehran, Iran

*** Assistant Professor, Water Eng. Dept., PWIT, P.O.Box 16765-1719, Tehran, Iran




ABSTRACT

Human civilization has always been in evolution by having direct access to water resources throughout history. Water, with its qualitative and quantitative effects, plays an important role in economic and social develoments. Contrary to other sources, water is not replaceable. By increasing world population and also growth of communities, water and its consumption has become important. This may even become more significant in those countries where the volume of rainfall is limited. Water consumption per capita depends on the culture, kind of activities and climate conditions, which varies in different areas. These differences are such that the variation in water consumption per capita may range between 3.0 to 700 liters per day. Iran is located in southwest Asia with an average annual rainfall of 250 millimeters. It has an arid and semi-arid climate. Water crisis has appeared in Iran as a serious problem. There are mainly two reasons for that: (1) Lack of proper water management and (2) Occurrence of drought. In fact, water crisis can be defined as an unadjustment between water resources and rate of consumption. In this paper attempts have been made to identify factors influencing water crisis in Iran. Solutions are also put forward to control and reduce this for the future.





KEYWORDS: Iran, Urban water, Water crisis, Drought, Water management, Water resources

1. INTRODUCTION


Iran with an arid and semi-arid geographic specification is located in Southwest Asia. The normal annual average of precipitation is 250 mm. The geographic and climatic variation of the country is very extensive. For instance, annual average rainfall in the north is more than 1000 mm, while this figure is less than 100 mm for central and southeast of the country.
Existing of mountainous areas in the north and west have caused the flows of several main rivers. At the same time vast desert spread in the Central and Southeast. For this reason water resources diversity is quite visible. These conditions lead to uneven distribution of population. More than 50% of population lives in the west and north, while about 70% of water resources is located in these areas (Bitaraf, 2000). The sum of annual water resources is estimated 135x109m3, the consumption rate in the three main sectors are as follows:

  1. Domestic urban consume sector : five percent (5%)

  2. Industrial sector : twenty percent (20%)

  3. Agricultural sector : ninety three percent (93%)

Construction and performance of hydraulic structures such as dams, kanats, and conveyance channels for reservoirs, transmission and distribution systems have been experience by Iranian people since 3000 years ago. Three decades ago, before 1970, because of low population, agricultural nature and low rate of urban population, water supply was not considered as a critical problem of the country. During the last three decades, large dams have been built around the big cities such as Tehran, Isfahan, Ahvaz, etc, in order to supply water for urban, industrial and agricultural consumption. Where surface water has not been available, ground water has also been used as water resources for supply. Since 1980, a rapid population growth as well as rapid economic change has lead to significant agricultural and industrial development and consequently increasing urban population (Manouchehri 2000). Consequently, dramatic changes have been encountered in water demand. Until 1990, water supply was not a critical problem and there was a reasonable ratio between available demand and supply. In recent decade, water supply has appeared as a critical national problem, which is explained in the followings:


2. CAUSES OF WATER CRISIS OCCURRENCE
There are mainly four reasons for which water crisis occurs (Manouchhri, 2000):

1- Rapid population growth which is improprotional to the environmental capacity,

2- Development of different parts of agriculture, industry and urbanization,

3- A decrease in the number of appropriate structures to store, distribute and convey water. This is due to the lack of financial sources, which has led to the less investments,



4- Worldwide occurrence of drought (i.e. Iran) since 1995.
2.1. A Progressional Increase in Population
Since 1979, due to the cultural, social and economic change in Iran, there has been a progressional increase in population in such a way that during the last 20 years the population has increased from 30 to 60 million people. This has caused an increase in urban population by 3.5 percent. Migration of people from rural areas to big cities and the suburbs has also caused an increase in urbanization from one year to the next. This has culminated on a water demands increase. The urban population of Iran was estimated 17 million in 1980, and the number of people who used urban water services were estimated 13 million. This statistics has now risen to 40 million urban population of which 38 million people take benefit of water services.
On the basis of available reports, city migrants have been divided into two classes: economic and environmental migrants. Environmental migrants are those who had to leave their lands due to the droughts (i.e. central and southwest of Iran) while economic migrants are those who have moved to big cities (i.e.Tehran) for better conditions and facilities of life.
Recently, regional water management of Tehran have announced that they might not be able to provide water for Tehran in the near future. In this context, there are migrants who used to consume water 10 Liters/day, but now, they tend to consume more of that in big cities rather than using other urban services. Most of these migrants reside in suburbs where urban services are much cheaper than central and inner zones. In order to reduce population growth rate and migrations, the followings have been designed and applied:
  • Cutting down the rate of birth from 3% to 1% by applying the adequate population control policy,

  • Controling migration from rural areas to big cities by constructing urban infrastructural and facilities. For instance, lots of attempts have been made, in addition to other services, in order to convey water to the rural areas by canals and pipelines through dam construction.

In big cities of Iran, the rate of capacity of population is challenging which is neither compatible to environmental potentials nor to the rate of economic growth.

It is anticipated that the Iranian population will reach about 100 million by year 2020 and the number of urban areas vary from 600 to 1000.

2.2. Development of Different Sectors: Agriculture, Industry and Urbanization




In present decade (1990-2000) water demand has been increased very rapidly in different sectors in agriculture, industry and urban services. This demand is not only due to the population increase but also due to an increase in the three so-called sectors. In the agriculture, with the most water consumption, there is the highest loss, which has been noticed by the people in charge in irrigation and drainage Department. Though urban water demand consumes only 5% to 6% percent of the country water resources, however, due to the high rate of consumption in those catchments, water supply has become serious problems.

Industrial growth can be a serious threat to Iranian water resources for two reasons: On one hand, as the industrial rate of growth increases, the demand for water is also growing in parallel. On the other hand the wastewater resulted from industrial activities may cause surface and groundwater pollution, which makes Iranian water resources problems two folds. Finding rational solutions for industrial effluent treatment is another environmental issues, which have been on the Water and Wastewater Department Agenda.



2.3. Lack of Financial Sources for New Investments
Iran is classified as those countries which have been dependent on the financial sources resulted from sales of oil. The revenue from the sales of oil on the National economy has appeared by an increase in oil prices in international markets, which has caused government to run a lot of projects in reservoir dams as well as water distribution and conveyance systems.

On the contrary, as a reduction in oil prices comes to effect in the international markets, a lot of projects are implemented slowly or even stopped.

Presently, Reservoir Dam Karkheh with a storage capacity of 7×10 9 cubic meters and Karoun 2 with a storage capacity of 3×10 9 cubic meters are the biggest reservoir dam construction projects. The vitality of water and its storage for Iran, with an estimation of population to be 100 million people by 2020, is so important that several dam construction projects are in progress in most of the rivers. Currently there are 84 dams in operation, 68 dam projects are in progress and 120 are being studied in their early phases.

However, the lack of financial sources may cause a long delay in the operation of these projects. This is clearly noticed in Karkheh Dam construction project whish is supposed to be ready for operation in two to three years time but may take a long time for that.

This can partly be overcome by selling the shares of these projects in stock market. Therefore, people are encouraged to investe in these kinds of projects to company the government in such national projects. Bearing in mind, that foreign funds have also played very important roles in some projects like the World Bank credit for 145 million Dollars for Tehran sewage Network.
2.4. Appearance of Droughts in the World and Iran Since 1995:
Currently, debates on water crisis currently fall into two categories:


  • Water scarcity, in general

  • Drought in particular.

These categories are completely different, however what is so positive in that respect is that, Iran is exposed to the continuous drought which with authorities have been fighting for a long time. Thus, the plans and programs have to be made to reduce the damages resulted from drought to a minimum.

As water consumption increases during wet years consumption exceeds the natural resources, the vulnerability to drought therefore, tend to appear more intensive (i.e. Tehran). This has also appeared in some other areas where reservoir dams have completely been emptied and dried out. In year 98-99 government has devoted 300×10 9 Rials (about 10 million dollars) credit for droughts compensation. These recent droughts have been nightmares throughout Iranian water history, particularly, in 2000.

In this year, many rivers such as Zayandeh Rud and Hirmand dried out as well as some swamps and marshlands. A large river like Karoun with an average daily discharge of 500 m3/s during last summer (2000) had an average discharge of 100 m3/s during summer 2000. This, in turn, caused an increase in water concentration of the river and degradation of its quality, which converted the river into a saline one. This still had further undesirable consequences which ended up with the ban of supplying water to adjacent cities, such as Ahwaz, Abadan and Khorramshahr, in the south of Iran.

Under these circumstances, government had to supply drinking water for these towns from other other parts of the country with tankers and cargo trains. Serious objections were raised by local people, bring about political problem for the government. So if the drought occurrence continues in the future, it may raise social crisis as well as political issues in some areas.





    3. CRISIS MANAGEMENT AND SOLUTIONS

In the view of the problems cropped up from water crisis, the followings have been recommended as solution to water crisis.


3.1. Establishment of Independent Water and Wastewater Companies under a Centralized Unit
Before 1990 urban water and sewage used to be administrated by municipality in large areas while small independent units in small areas could manage that by themselves.

Since then independent Water and Wastewater Companies under a centralized unit supervised by Ministry of Energy have been organized so that the urban water and sewage authorities could organize urban water supply under a united management.


3.2. Construction of New Projects
There are several large dams built in Iran before 1980 (Table1), however, in recent decade some new dam construction projects have started (Table 2, Motiee et. al. 2000).

Table 1. Dams constructed before 1978




Order

Name

River

Locatin

Dam Type

Reservoir Volume (MCM)

Crest

Length


(m)

Height

(m)


Construction

Start


Period

End


1

Dez

Dez

North of Dezful

Concrete Arch

3340

212

203

1960

1963

2

Karoun I

Karoun

NE Masjed Soleyman

Concrete Arch

2900

380

200

1970

1976

3

Doroud Zan

Kor

Doroud Zan

Rockfill

993

700

60

1966

1972

4

Sefid Rud

Sefid Rud

Manjeel

Concrete

1800

425

106

1958

1962

5

Aras

Aras

Qeshlagh

Earthfill

1350

945

42

1967

1970

6

Zayandeh-Rud

Zay.Rud

Issi Sou

Concrete Arch

1450

450

100

1965

1970

7

Amir Kabir

Karaj

23 km to Karaj

Concrete Arch

205

390

180

1959

1963

8

Zarineh Rud

Zari. Rud

Yamin Abad

Earthfill

650

720

50

1967

1971

9

Mahabad

Mahabad

Mahabad

Rockfill

230

700

46.5

1967

1970

10

Latian

Jajrud

Latian

Concrete

95

450

107

1963

1968

11

Golpaygan

Golpaygan

Akhte Khan

Earthfill

56.6

360

56

1947

1950

12

Ekbatan

Abshineh

Yalfan

Concrete

8

286

53

1959

1963

13

Voshmgir

Gorgan Rud

Sangar Savar

Earthfill

79

430

19

1964

1970

14

Chah Nimeh

Sisstan

Sisstan

Earthfill

45

128.5

17

1972

1978

Table 2. Dams under construction and/or study during last two decades




Order

Name

River

Location

Dam Type

Reservoir Volume (MCM)

Crest Length

(m)


Height

(m)


Construction

Start


Period

End


1

Jiroft

Halil Rud

Tange Narab

Concrete Arch

430

250

134

1976

1983

2

Saveh

Ghareh Chay

SW Saveh

Concrete Arch

290

265

128

1983

1993

3

Lar

Lar

Polour

Earthfill

960

1170

105

1975

1981

4

Esteghlal

Minab

Minab

Concrete

344

450

604

1975

1983

5

Pishin

Sarbaz

Chah Bahar

Roskfill

250

400

63

1978

1992

6

Torogh

Torogh

Torogh

Concrete Arch

40

322

75

1982

1988

7

Kardeh

Kardeh

Kardeh

Concrete Arch

282

144

67

1982

1987

8

Vahdat

Gheshlagh

Sanandaj

Earthfill

224

300

80

1973

1983

9

Kohrang II

Kohrang

Kohrang

Concrete Gravity

---

73

22

1972

1985

10

Chaqakhor

Gandoman

Boroujen

Earthfill

45

200

10

1988

1993

There are also a number of water conveyance projects to supply water to large cities.

These projects were done for the cities, where they are the centres of their provinces, without which they could have encountered serious water supply. On the basis of available data during decade 1990 to 2000, the condition of water conveyance in Iran is in the following diagram (Elahipanah- 2000).




Figure 1 - Variation of Water Transmission with Distnace




3.3. Unaccounted Flow of Water

Since 1990 a series of serious attempts have been made to identify existing urban water networks. This has been accompanied by the investigation of unaccounted water quantity to be estimated about 30%. Lots of attempts are now being made to reduce this to something less than 10%. This can be achieved by reconstruction of water networks as well as installation of modern necessary equipment.


3.4. Separation of Urban Water Network

One of the projects currently being researched on is the separation of drinkable water from undrinkable one in urban areas (Mahvi et. al.- 1998). This was done in some southern parts of the country in the last decades, however, it has not been proceeded beyond the research due to its high cost.


3.5. Training and Modification of the Water Consumption Culture

Urbanized people have come to realize life with less water consumption, and get to know the approach by which it can be achieved. This is required an intensive training. Currently, without realizing the concept of water crisis and also having 24 hours access to it, water consumption in some urban areas may be in the range of 300-400 litres per second.

The strategy of the water and wastewater industry for the settlement of appropriate patterns is planned as follows:


  1. In the new water consumption pattern, families classified according to the number of members. An average annual consumption is defined for each family class, hence those families that consume more than what is determined by authorities are counted as overconsumers and have a lot more for their extra-water consumption. In this context, research has shown that if the overconsumer family class reduce their consumption to that of normal consumes class, one and a half times of the present population may be easily supplied with current water resources. Bearing in mind that the urban population of Iran is now approximately 40 million people.

  2. Determination of an appropriate consumption pattern for arid and semi-arid environments, as Iran is one of those countries with various climates.

  3. Determination of an appropriate consumption pattern for drought years, which requires promotion of public education in water consumption:

  • Applying new technology for water consumption (i.e. water taps in houses),

  • Visiting and monitoring household water networks,

  • Changing water metres in tower block into individual household ones,

  • Enlightening people by the press regarding less water consumption and its benefits


3.6. Bottled Water Production

Production of bottled water in internal markets may save water consumption, besides it can turn into an export product and become a source of income. Undoubtedly, bottled water becomes increasingly important and extensively significant due to the lack of water resources as well as their pollution. This has led to the mass production of bottled water, which is done by various manufacturers in Iran now.

4. CONCLUSION AND FUTURE STRATEGIES
The challenge in urban water and wastewater section in Iran may be summarised as follows:


  1. People’s demands and their expectation of authorities to supply drinking water from new resources, which have already been identified. This may be achieved by transmitting water from upland rivers to central cities of Iran as well as desert areas (i.e. water transmission from upstream of Karoun River),

  2. 2-The danger of an extensive water resources pollution, particulrly in the watersheds where urban water is supplied by,

  3. 3-Restriction of high quality drinking water resources in many areas and also reduction of water consumption per capita by increasing population, i.e. this has already occurred in some areas where consumption per capita reduced to one –sixth,

  4. Conflicts due to the competition for demand between differnet sectors,

  5. The lack of knowledge and adavanced technology requirement,

  6. Problems resulted from modification and movement of urban water treatment plants due to qualitative and quantitative loss in local resources,

  7. Improportional rate of growth of population in the country; urbanisation has added to this problem,

  8. Lack of single rigid policy with appropriate direction for self-administration of Water and Wastewater Companies and also limitation in fixing water rate,

  9. Increasing the cost of water transmission for long distances,

  10. Breaking down of water networks and equipments.

The following three principles are considered for encountering the supply, distribution and consumption of drinking water challenges,



  1. An effective water resources management to take advantage of the available potential resources and protection of them,

  2. Proper management of transmission and distribution of water to avoid losses in the pipes and promote distributions,

  3. Proper consumption management to optimise water consumption and popularise the right consumption.

On the basis of worldwide definition, it is admitted that Iran is on the borderline of water crisis and the country is vulnerable to water supply. Various research and analysis have shown that latest water supply projects comparing to those of the last decade are more expensive, they require higher technology and skills in designing, construction and operation.

REFERENCES
Bitaraf, H. (Minister of Energy) (2000) Protecting Water Resources in Iran. Iranian Water and Wastewater Journal (Shahrab) No. 223.

Elahipanah, N. (2000) Progressive Changes in Urban Water, Iranian Water and Wastewater Journal (Shahrab) No. 227.

Karamooz, M. (1998) Water Resources Management in Iran, Asian Conference on Water and Wastewater Management, Tehran, Iran.

Manouchehri, G. H. (2000) Water Crisis in Iran, Iranian Water and Environmental Journal, No. 39.

Ministry of Energy (1997) Iranian Water and Wastewater Manual, Tehran, Iran.

Mahvi, A. Neirizi, S. (1998) Importance and Necessity of Separation of Urban Water Network, Asian Conference on Water and Wastewater Management, Tehran, Iran.



Motiee, H. and Darakhani, J. (2000) Dam Construction Development in Iran During the 90’s. Third Canadian Dam Assocaiation, Regina, Canada.


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