From nanotechnology to solar power: Solutions to drought

Sep 08, 2021

While the drought has intensified in Iran and the country is facing water stress, various solutions from the use of solar power plants to the expansion of watershed management and nanotechnology are offered by experts and officials.

 

Iran is located in an arid and semi-arid region, and Iranians have long sought to make the most of water.

 

In recent years, the drought has intensified making water resources fragile and it can be said that we have reached water bankruptcy in Iran.

 

However, water stress will continue this fall (September 23-December 21), and the season is expected to be relatively hot and short of rain, according to Ahad Vazifeh, head of the national center for drought and crisis management.

 

In such a situation, officials and experts propose various solutions for optimal water management.

 

Alireza Qazizadeh, a water and environment expert, referring to 80 percent of the arid regions in the country, said that “Iran has one percent of the earth’s area and receives only 36 percent of renewable resources.

 

The country receives 250 mm of rainfall annually, which is about 400 billion cubic meters, considering 70 percent evaporation, there is only 130 billion cubic meters of renewable water and 13 billion cubic meters of input from border waters.”

 

Referring to 800 ml of average rainfall and 700 mm of global evaporation, he noted that 70 percent of rainfall in Iran occurs in only 25 percent of the country and only 25 percent rains in irrigation seasons.

 

Pointing to the need for 113 billion cubic meters of water in the current year (began on March 21), he stated that “of this amount, 102 billion is projected for agricultural use, 7 percent for drinking and 2 percent for industry, and at this point water stress occurs.

 

In 2001, 5.5 billion cubic meters of underground resources were withdrawn annually, and if we consider this amount as 20 years from that year until now, it means that we have withdrawn an equivalent of one year of water consumption from non-renewable resources, which is alarming.”

 

The use of unconventional water sources can be effective in controlling drought, such as rainwater or river runoff, desalinated water, municipal wastewater that can be reused by treatment, he concluded.

 

Rasoul Sarraf, the Faculty of Materials at Shahid Modarres University, suggests a different solution and states that “To solve ease water stress, we have no choice but to use nanotechnology and solar power plants.

 

Pointing to the sun as the main condition for solar power plant, and while pointing to 300 sunny days in the country, he said that at the Paris Convention, Iran was required to reduce emissions by 4 percent definitively and 8 percent conditionally, which will only be achieved by using solar power plants.

 

Hamidreza Zakizadeh, deputy director of watershed management at Tehran’s Department of Natural Resources and Watershed Management, believes that watershed management can at least reduce the effects of drought by managing floods and extracting water for farmers.

 

Amir Abbas Ahmadi, head of habitats and regional affairs of Tehran Department of Environment, also referring to the severe drought in Tehran, pointed to the need to develop a comprehensive plan for water management and said that it is necessary to cooperate with several responsible bodies and develop a comprehensive plan to control the situation.

 

He also emphasizes the need to control migration to the capital, construction, and the implementation of the Comprehensive Plan of Tehran city.

 

While various solutions are proposed by officials and experts to manage water and deal with drought, it is necessary for the related organizations to work together to manage the current situation.

 

Mohammad Reza Espahbod, an expert in groundwater resources, also suggested that while the country is dealing with severe drought due to improper withdrawal of groundwater and low rainfall, karst water resources can supply the whole water needed by the country, only if managed.

 

Iran is the fifth country in the world in terms of karst water resources, he stated.

 

Qanats can also come efficient to contain water scarcity due to relatively low cost, low evaporation rates, and not requiring technical knowledge, moreover, they proved sustainable being used in perpetuity without posing any damages to the environment.

 

According to the Ministry of Energy, about 36,300 qanats have been identified in Iran, which has been saturated with water for over 2,000 years.

 

In recent years, 3,800 qanats have been rehabilitated through watershed and aquifer management, and people who had migrated due to water scarcity have returned to their homes.

 

Water resources shrinking

 

Renewable water resources have decreased by 30 percent over the last four decades, while Iran’s population has increased by about 2.5 times, Qasem Taqizadeh, deputy minister of energy, said in June.

 

The current water year (started on September 23, 2020) has received the lowest rain in the past 52 years, so climate change and Iran’s arid region should become a common belief at all levels, he lamented.

 

A recent report by Nature Scientific Journal on Iran’s water crisis indicates that from 2002 to 2015, over 74 billion cubic meters have been extracted from aquifers, which is unprecedented and its revival takes thousands of years along with urgent action.

 

Three Iranian scientists studied 30 basins in the country and realized that the rate of aquifer depletion over a 14-year period has been about 74 billion cubic meters, which is recently published in Nature Scientific Journal.

 

Also, over-harvesting in 77 percent of Iran has led to more land subsidence and soil salinity. Research and statistics show that the average overdraft from the country’s aquifers was about 5.2 billion cubic meters per year.

 

Mohammad Darvish, head of the environment group in the UNESCO Chair on Social Health, has said that the situation of groundwater resources is worrisome.