The generous sky has opened; is the dry spell over in Iran?

Since the beginning of autumn Iran has seen a great increase in precipitation amounts but endless speculations are running rampant as to whether the dry spell is over in the country or not.

The data released on Monday by the National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center stated that the whole country received 120.2 millimeters of rain since the beginning of autumn which almost triples last year’s precipitation and also indicate a 17-millimeter increase compared to long-term averages.

Except for provinces of Fars, Hormozgan, Sistan and Baluchestan, Kerman, Yazd, South Khorasan and Ardebil all other provinces nationwide have experienced a rise in precipitation amounts from September 23 to January 28 compared to long-term precipitation mean in the corresponding period. 

The data also shows that provinces of Ilam with 506.9 millimeters of rain, Gilan with 479.4 millimeters of rain, and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer Ahmad with 456.9 millimeters of rain all set records high in the amount of precipitation they received in the same period. 

The numbers appear to be in favor of Iran and it seems that the dry spell is over, however, on paper.

‘Precipitations projected to decrease’ 

In an interview with Khabaronline published on Monday Director of National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center has said that over the first three decades of the past 50 years long-term precipitation means have remained almost unchanged varying from 240 to 270 millimeters. 

However, a decreasing trend have started over the past two decades, Sadeq Ziaeian highlighted, adding that the drop could be due to climate change.

In general it is safe to say that over past 50 years the country has on average experienced a 1.2-milimiter decrease in precipitations annually, so that a 60 millimeter decline has occurred over past 50 years in Iran, he explained. 

For an arid and semi-arid country like Iran the aforesaid decrease is pretty sharp, he regretted, stating that, additionally a 2-degree temperature rise in the same period accompanied with increased evaporation rate has negatively affected the current conditions as well. 

Commenting on last year’s lower-than-normal precipitation amounts (42.6 millimeters, showing a 23-percent decrease in precipitation levels) Ziaeian explained that it is normal for a country to receive lower or higher amounts of precipitation.

Nevertheless, lower precipitation amounts are projected for the country in the decades to come, wet spells might occur as well for two or three consecutive years, however, dry spells will start again, he concluded.

A crisis looming on the horizon 

In a recent report released by Majlis [Iranian parliament] research center on January 1 it is predicted that by the [Iranian calendar] year 1400 (March 2021-March 2022) more than 50 million Iranians, nearly 80 percent of the country’s total population, will be affected by water shortages for drinking purposes.

The report stated that over the summer, due to decreased rainfalls and snowfalls in the past water year (September 2017-September 2018), some 36.8 million people constituting 46 percent of the country’s total population had problems accessing drinking water.

Such challenges, the report warns, would contribute to social unrest which may become a security issue.

The report suggests that by setting up desalination plants, digging wells, renovating water supply infrastructure, improving water efficiency, reforming water consumption patterns as well as reforming tariffs, and enhancing water efficiency in agriculture sector alleviate the water stress in the country. 

Providing drinking water must become a priority, the report says, adding that as renewable water resources are declining in the country focusing on desalinating sea water is of great importance. 

What went wrong?

You open the sink faucet and water is flowing, you wash the dishes. You turn on the bathroom faucet and take a hot-water shower and don’t think one day the water may not flow from the pipes anymore.

However, wetlands are drying up, ground water resources are depleting and land subsidence is in progress at a high rate.

Even with the beginning of a wet spell it takes years to compensate for the loss we have already inflicted upon water resources by unsustainable development and poor irrigation practices.

Years of shortsightedness and flawed policies coupled with natural forces such as climate change and accordingly temperature rise have exacerbated the conditions. 

It takes years to put right what has gone wrong over these years and drastic, emergency actions should be taken soon enough. 

 
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