In a speech to Iranian Regime’s President Hassan Rouhani’s administration on April 21st, Energy Minister Reza Ardakanian said, “334 cities with 35 million people across Iran are currently struggling with water stress.”
Ardakanian classified cities in three different categories, and explained, “165 cities with 10.5 million people are in yellow, 62 cities with 6.8 million are in orange, and 107 cities with 17.2 million residents are in a red alert situation across Iran.”
For more than 50 years, Iran has been experiencing long cycles of drought, with the average precipitation dropping from 250 to 217 millimeters per decade. Ardakanian emphasized that this year will be the driest one recorded.
UN Development Program Resident Representative in Iran, Gary Lewis, has stated, “The water shortage is currently Iran’s most important humanitarian challenge.”
The provinces that will be most affected by the drought are Isfahan, Baluchestan, and Sistan. An Iranian MP described the situation in Isfahan as a “danger threatening Iran’s national security.”
According to reports, the five million people living in central Iran’s Isfahan Province will have no access to drinking water from July onwards. Farmers in Isfahan Province are already protesting against the government’s water policies, claiming that government mismanagement has exacerbated the drought, as water is diverted from the province’s main river to neighboring Yazd Province.
As well, water experts say that across the country, the water shortage is compounded by poor management of water resources. They claim that years of mismanagement have lead to the drying up of many lakes, rivers, and wetlands, and warn that beyond the current acute crisis, Iran’s water shortage will have serious long-term economic and social consequences.
Ardakanian says changing water consumption practices is a key step in ending the water shortage. “Revising the ways water is consumed in Iran is even more important than discovering new water resources in the country,” he said, and cautioned that failing to adapt consumption practices could lead to water rationing and power outages.
A 2017 United Nations report has warned, “Water shortages are acute; agricultural livelihoods no longer sufficient.” This leaves many ordinary Iranian citizens being forced to leave their homes, and facing uncertain futures as migrants.