By Maryam Qarehgozlou

Will recent floods ease Iran’s water bankruptcy?

April 5, 2019 - 19:49

TEHRAN— Since the beginning of the current Iranian calendar year on March 21 some provinces across the country, in northern, northeastern, western and southwestern Iran were hit hard by devastating floods incurring a dramatic loss.

According to the latest statistics announced by Iran’s Forensics Organization since the New Year, some 67 lost their lives in floods in provinces of Fars, Lorestan, North Khorasan, Golestan, Mazandaran, Hamedan, Khuzestan, Kermanshah, Semnan, Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad and Khorasan Razavi.

Province of Fars with 21 deaths and province of Lorestan with 15 deaths are among the areas with highest fatalities reported so far, Mehr news agency quoted Iran’s Forensics Organization director Ahmad Shojaei as saying on Wednesday.

In addition to the casualties, the catastrophic floods have caused major damage to properties, destruction of crops, and loss of livestock in many provinces, especially in Mazandaran, Golestan, and Lorestan.

But despite the serious loss, many have already come to a burning question: will the torrential rains quench water tension in arid and semi-arid Iran?

Precipitations set the records high 

Director of National Drought Warning and Monitoring Center (NDWMC) Sadeq Ziaeian told the Tehran Times on Friday that since the beginning of the current water year (starting on September 23, 2018) the whole country has received 256 millimeters of precipitation on average and this is while the average precipitation the country received in the long-term amounts to 232 milliliters.

“There remain more than 5 months for the current water year to end, however, the amount of precipitations have already surpassed that of last year’s,” Ziaeian highlighted.

NDWMC director went on to say that the amounts indicate a 39-percent increase compared to long-term averages and a 184-percent rise compared to the same period last year.

Considering last water year’s deficiencies this year’s precipitations have remedied deficiencies in almost all provinces except for provinces of Sistan-Baluchestan, Kerman, and Yazd, he added.

Moreover, he explained, provinces of Ilam and Lorestan have received considerable amounts of precipitations since the start of the current water year each with 136 and 112 percent increase compared to the long-term averages.

Ziaeian also noted that 11 provinces including Ilam, West Azarbaijan, North Khorasan, Qom, Kordestan, Kermanshah, Golestan, Lorestan, Mazandaran, Markazi, and Hamedan, set the records for receiving most precipitation in long-term.

While the recent rainfalls have inflicted extensive damage they have played an important role in increasing the volume of water resources in the country, he stated.

Will the wetlands be fully restored?

Commenting on the restoration of wetlands in provinces receiving high precipitations NDWMC director said that full restoration of the wetlands depends on other factors other than increased rainfalls.

“Temperature rise and hence high evaporation rate especially in summer in Iran which is an arid and semi-arid country can result in dryness of the restored wetlands.

“So if the precipitations will not last for the coming months and temperature would rise the wetlands might get dry once again, as floodwaters can fill wetlands temporarily.”

Nonetheless, Ziaeian said, based on the projections for the second month of the spring temperatures will remain normal or below normal for the coming month.

“But different regions have different climates and with regard to the fact that substantial amounts of water is restored behind the dams in some areas should the water right of the wetlands is provided persistently they will remain full for a fairly long time,” he concluded.

Addressing water bankruptcy

It is generally believed the country is suffering water-bankruptcy, a term indicating that we are delivering much more water than nature provides annually.

Water bankruptcy will result in depletion of groundwater resources and dryness of wetlands and rivers.

And now, with recent floods and rainfalls the controversial question is brought up once again: will the floods tackle water bankruptcy in the country?

What is evident is that recent floods have clearly increased the water level in rivers and wetlands, so that it has partially and most importantly temporarily addressed water shortages, but is it the same for the groundwater resources?  

According to the Science Direct, groundwater recharge depends on several factors such as infiltration capacity, stochastic characteristics of rainfall, and climate factors. The spatial and temporal distribution of the rainfall mainly controls the natural groundwater recharge. Less groundwater recharge leads to a drop in the groundwater table, which can have a negative impact on vegetation.

In arid regions, recharge occurs through the ephemeral streams, which flow through the wadi course but most of the water is absorbed in the unsaturated zone before reaching the aquifer.

In semiarid regions, the recharge is irregular and occurs only in the periods of heavy rainfall. In humid regions, recharge is mainly in the winter period. In the summer period, most of the rainfall becomes soil moisture and evaporates. In cold areas, the melting of ice suddenly recharges the groundwater.

While groundwater recharge is a complex process and depends on various factors, effective watershed and aquifer management planning are required to feed valuable resources.

Managing water consumption as well as respecting nature by allocating the water right of rivers and wetlands can also play a significant role in achieving sustainability in the future.


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