Kowsar - case study Iran
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  • 1. “The days are gone when we looked at the sky for rain!”Quoted from the address delivered bythe deposed Shah at inauguration ofthe Dez Dam that previously bore his name.“Any intelligent fool can make things bigger, more complex, and more violent. It takes a touch of genius -- and a lot of courage – to move in the opposite direction."Albert Einstein Sayyed Ahang Kowsar Fars Research Center for Agriculture and Natural Resources Shiraz, I.R. IranHow to deal with water scarcity in the Islamic Republic of Iran?Water, in its liquid or frozen state, is the most precious commodity in the parched Land ofIran. The magnificent temple of Anahita (the Angel of Water) near Kazeroun in southernIran is a reminder of the religious value that the Zoroastrians assigned to this vitalsubstance. Earth, air and fire were the other substances besides water, which the ancientPersians used to believe that everything else was made of; therefore, desecrating them wasconsidered an unforgivable sin. Irrigation of a drying field was a feat that made AhuraMazda (the supreme deity) extremely happy. Ahriman (the evil spirit, coeval with AhuraMazda), on the other hand, was accused of instigating droughts. Water security has beenthe principal reason in site selection for establishing settlements on the Iranian Plateau.Therefore, it is no coincidence that the isopleths of human population density so closelyresemble the isohyetal maps “that one might almost be justified in talking ofsuperimposition” (Behnam, 1968).To answer the raised question in the title, one needs to contemplate the historicalbackground that has lead to the present bind. Therefore, I concentrate on the current state ofwater and soil, our recently neglected coarse alluvial deposits, and how to optimize thelimited water resources at low cost and risk. The mean annual precipitation (MAP) of 37 major watersheds of the Land of Iran with acombined area of 1,620,703 km2 was 271 mm for the 1965-1995 period (Khalili, 2005),which was about one third that of the planet Earth. Accepting these figures as accurate forthe sake of argument, Iran receives some 439 billion m3 (bm3) of the MAP. Furthermore, itreceives about 8 bm3 of the inflow from the neighboring countries while losingapproximately 13 bm3 to them. Of this volume, 296 bm3 is consumed in evapotranspiration,and the remainder forms the 81 bm3 of surface flows, the direct recharge, and 18 bm3 ofrecharge though the rivers. Although the annual direct and indirect recharge of the aquifersis estimated at 51bm3, we extract around 60 bm3 per year from our under groundresources. It is further estimated that in years having the “normal” depth of precipitation,some 63 bm3 of water is drained into the Persian Gulf, the Oman and Caspian Seas, andnumerous salt lakes, marshes, and playas (Dr. Masoud Nejabat, personal communication). 1
  • 2. In a very simplified categorization, the available surface and groundwater resources in theI.R. Iran are used for agriculture (about 95 %), industry (1%), and domestic use (4%).“Water is the number one limiting factor to crop yield worldwide, and agriculture is a largeconsumer of water” (Mangan et al., 2010). As agriculture is the mainstay of a largepercentage of our rural population, and our food security depends on that sector, supplyingan ever increasing volume of water for food production is advocated by the large dambuilders. However, a small reduction in the agricultural water consumption throughimproving water use efficiency (WUE), and increasing efficiency in delivering water andenergy services translate into a large gain in water and no need for more large dams (Tottenet al., 2010), particularly, when another alternative-artificial recharge of groundwater(ARG)-is applicable. Thus, our greatest challenge is increasing agricultural productivity onthe existing farm fields while decreasing water delivery to them, and improving electricalenergy production, delivery and use. As our soils are mostly degraded, to earn the mostbenefit from the limited volume of irrigation water we have to reclaim our drasticallydisturbed land, and this may be achieved by spreading nutrient rich turbid floodwater onthe low gradient farm fields (Kowsar, 2008). Therefore, we may achieve water securitywithout jeopardizing our food production. This requires access to and the development ofdrought–tolerant genotypes as well as practicing improved agronomic management(Mangan et al., 2010).Nomadic pastoralism was a way of life for some3.1 million (20.1 %) of Iranians in 1939(Iranian Center for Statistics, as reported Najafi, 2004).According to the results of the 1956census, of the 18,944,821 inhabitants of Iran, 69% lived in the country (Behnam, 1968).Although the exact numbers of the villagers and the transhumant pastoralists are notavailable, an educated guess puts the population of the latter group, who roamed thewilderness in search of forage for their herds of sheep, goats and camels, at 3.2 million.They produced the bulk of lamb, mutton, goat and camel meat, and dairy products,particularly butter and ghee. Beef and poultry were produced at very limited scales, mostlyby the villagers. Furthermore, the nomads dry-farmed small plots beyond the reach of thesettled growers, mostly in highlands, and relatively large fields in their wintering areas.Mobile pastoralism, which has been demonstrated by the Iranian nomads from timeimmemorial, is environmentally sustainable, financially sound, and socially acceptable indesert ecosystems (Davies, 2008; Adeel et al., 2007). In fact, the early settlers of ourcountry called their new home Irana, the Land of Arians (nomads in Old Parsi). Asprecipitation in the nomads habitat was inadequate for a sedentary way of life, they learnedthat they had to obey the dictates of nature (Tannehill, 1947). They had to make use of highmobility to adapt to the ever-changing dynamics of grasslands (Vetaas and Knudson,2004). Moreover, their life in tents forced them to avoid exposure to extreme temperatures.Therefore, they moved between northerly summer camp sites and pastures at higheraltitudes and lower, southerly sites in winter. By doing so, they utilized hundreds ofthousands of square kilometers for grazing in order to maintain stock numbers inequilibrium with pasture productivity. Nomads spread their herds evenly across thelandscape, thus caused less damage to the soil (Coughenour et al., 1985). Overgrazing wasconsidered a sacrilege (Adeel et al., 2008).It has been shown that the nomadic livestock systems are well adjusted to the ecosystemsof the southern Sahel region (Breman and de Wit, 1983). Moreover, they havedemonstrated that undeveloped, animal-based communities such as the southern Sahelian 2
  • 3. nomads are more energy efficient than modern, fuel-based societies. “Mobility is anecological necessity, and the mobile pastoralism is often the best way to manage dryenvironments sustainably” (UNDP, 2003). On the contrary, concentration of humans andlivestock into small areas degrades the soil, decreases the productive capacity of the land,and causes a decline in water resources and their quality. Sedentarization of nomadpastoralists has been an exercise in futility, and this has been concisely spelled out in arecent document by the United Nations (Adeel et al., 2009). Unfortunately, decision-makers in drylands are neither ecologist nor heed their consultation! They cannot graspthe basic concepts of the carrying capacity.Political expediency lead the Government of Iran in the 1930s to decree that nomadism wasan anachronism in the 20th century; those who practiced it must settle down, cultivate cropsand raise domesticated animals. It was hard to rule the trekking people, scattered in far-away mountains and plains. It is obvious that the ban on transhumance resulted in thewastage of most forage on one million km2 of our rangelands along with livestock industrythat had utilized those resources from time immemorial. The transhumant populationdecreased from 3.1 million in 1939 (20.5 %) to 2.5million (9.6%) in 1966, to1.152 million(2.3%) in 1974, and to 1.304 million (2.1%) in 1998 (Iranian Center for Statistics, asreported by Najafi, 2004). Although the national population has quadrupled during thepast 60 years, the number of transhumant pastoralists has declined by 57 %.The bulk of our food grains and feed was produced on rain-fed farms and pastures beforethe construction of large dams and advent of powerful pumps. Limited irrigation wasachieved by the flow of qanats, base flow of rivers, and the spring discharge. Spateirrigation was practiced on some 600,000 ha of foothills and plains in many parts of theLand of Iran. Those environmentally friendly technologies not only supported the 20million populations of the late 1950s, but also maintained a healthy export industry.The ill-conceived and badly executed politically expedient Land Reform Law of 9 January1962, and Additional Articles to it of 1962 and 1963, dealt the second serious blow to ournatural resources. This law that had been promulgated to stem the spread of Communismdid not achieve its objective as it was against the Islamic teachings, and the stakeholderswere not allowed to participate in decision making. Article 64, Section B, Item 4 of theCompendium of the Land Reform Act (Anon., 2001) specifies that each of the 48,592farming communities (McLachlan,1968)will be allocated twice the area of its farm fields,orchards, gardens and nurseries for livestock grazing. This enticed the powerful landowners aided by the conniving public servants to break the virgin land adjacent to theirfields, thus claiming much larger extent than they had been previously farming.Unfortunately, in most instances those areas designed for grazing were ploughed withheavy machinery and used for cultivating crops. Worst of all, as far as the water resourceswere concerned, many landlords declined to maintaine the qanats to show their resentmentagainst the Government’s decision, or could not afford it due to the decrease in their landholdings. Bonine (1996) righly believes that the uncertainty about the ownership of qanatswas a reason for the reduced community valuation of them. They resorted to wells with thecatastrophic desiccation of qanats. The Land Reform Act infringed the right of nomadgraziers not only due to the decrease in the free range they were using from timeimmemorial, but also most of their migration routes were compulsorily changed causingundesired outcomes. These two political expediencies laid the foundations of our watermismanagement. 3
  • 4. The national policies in the late 1970s starting to foster self-sufficiency in wheat and redmeat further encouraged illegal expripriators to continue to overexploit the remaining land(Adeel et al., 2008); again, infringing on the right of nomad graziers. Thus, the coup degrâce was dealt to our rangelands, the water towers of our country.Dietary changes, which mostly took place after the land reform and importation of cheaprice, have made a heavy burden on our water resources. Water requirement of rice atNowshahr on the Caspian Sea Coast is 297 mm, while it is 1362 mm in Susa (Bybordi,2005); however, the grim actuality is the volume delivered to the rice paddies is a few foldthe requirement; it is about 25,000 m3ha-1 in the Province of Fars. Rice is grown on615,000 ha in years when we receive the normal precipitation; only about 400,000 ha of iton the ecologically suitable Caspian Sea Coast. Thus, assuming that only 200,000 ha of riceis grown south of the Alborz Mountain Ranges, and further assuming that improveddelivery services and irrigation practices reduce this volume to 20,000 m3ha-1, 40 bm3 ofwater is wasted for growing rice in unsuitable climates. By changing this commodity towheat, we would annually save some 20 bm3 of water. This has happened with beef, too.Up to the 1950s, only a small minority preferred beef; the rest consumed other kinds,particularly the mutton produced by the nomadic transhumants. Beef production hasnecessitated growing corn, with the resultant drain on water. According to Postel (1992,p.190) “A kilogram of hamburger or stake produced by a typical California cattleoperation, uses some 20,500 liters of water”. A change in the dietary preference is in order;desert-dwellers cannot eat like the people living in humid climates and expect to haveadequate water too!Hydropower generation has been another huge drain on our water resources. Arrival andresidence of cold fronts, and the lack or breakdown of the gas and diesel fuel systems, isusually made up for by bringing more generator under operation! It is ironic that in an oiland gas exporting country, the limited surface water resources should be wasted toproduce heat. As irrigation is rarely practiced in winter, most of the water used to generateelectricity drains into the Persian Gulf and inland playas. To save water and energy, Tottenet al. (2010) advocate implementing the integrated resource planning (IRP) approach,which has been practiced in California since the 1980s, and also in the Pacific Northwestand northeastern US states.Coarse-grained, unconsolidated alluvial deposits: Worthier than oil!The existence of some 410,000 km2 of deep alluvial strata south of the Alborz and east ofthe Zagros Mountain Ranges on the Iranian Plateau, and in inter-mountain valleys, is agreat blessing for the inhabitants of this land. Upwards of 5,000 km3 of water (11 fold ourMAP) may be kept in these potential aquifers for a long time, evaporation from thereserves is very low, and the stored water could be conveyed by gravity and for longdistances through the qanats. This immense underground space offers us a great advantageto store water during times of abundance and recovery of that water in times of scarcity.Extreme hydrologic events often provide opportunities for the ARG (NAC, 2008). Acomplementary advantage of the ARG is flood mitigation and a substantial decrease in therelated damages. Assuming that we reach the zero population growth today, and our waterconsumption remains at the present extravagant rate, we can depend on the stored water for40 years if we fully recharge these potential aquifers with interruptive floods. It is avariation of insurance against droughts for pastoralists (Mesbah and Kowsar, 2010). “In a 4
  • 5. word, [underground] storage increasers the flexibility with which water can be managed”(NAS, 2008). We have proven that ARG is technically practicable, environmentallyfriendly, socially acceptable, economically justified, and financially feasible. In fact, thebenefit: cost ratio for some tangible benefits has been 20:1 (Bakhtiar et al., 1997), and forecosystem restoration, 70:1 (Karimzadegan et al., 2000).Two main factors have decided the geological character of our intramontane basins. Thedeposition of thick argillaceous lacustrine layers during the Miocene and Pliocene ages,and the filling up of the basin by alluvial deposits during the Pleistocene age after the finalupheaval that took place at the beginning of the Pleistocene (Stöcklin, 1968). Issar (1969)believed that the thickness of our alluvial beds may reach 400 m. Fookes and Knill (1969)have reported that the maximum depth of alluvium in the Tehran area is 1,020 m. Thesynclines in the Zagros Mountain Ranges are filled by Miocene gypsiferous clays andmarls overlain by alluvial deposits (Issar, 1969). The ancient Persians took advantage ofthis geological setting and invented the qanat. Al-Karaji (c.a.1019), the great Iraniangeohydrologist and engineer, wrote his tome on groundwater and qanats a millennium ago.Wulff (1968) claimed that there were 50,000 strings of qanats in Iran with a total length of360,000 km and a combined discharge of 500 m3 per second, which was the meandischarge of the Karun River at the time. The Ministry of Power, however, has reportedthat there are 21,500 strings with a total yearly yield of 8.014 billion m3 (Ahmadi andZolanvar, 1984). Behnia (1988) has reported the total number and the yearly discharge ofthe qanats at 18,400 and 7.5 billion m3, respectively.An interesting characteristic of qanats in Iran is their position beneath the plains: the waterthat drains below a field irrigated by an upstream qanat is intercepted by the downstreamqanat, ad infinitum. A case in point is the 3-leveled qanat system in Delijan, 250 km southof Tehran. Only at the very lowest elevation on the playas’ margins, where soils are veryfine-textured, might some flow be wasted during the cold season. It is obvious that wherethere is no qanat, or pumping of groundwater does not affect the yield of close by qanats,wells may be drilled and operated.Qanats performed the most vital role in the agrarian as well as the urban communities. Asthe shallow watertable fluctuated with the annual precipitation, the farmers were not able toover-exploit groundwater. The arrival of pumps drastically changed the picture. Anextremely advantages characteristic of qanat, as far as transforming our fuel-basedeconomy into a low-carbon, environmentally sustainable society, is that the water in thissystem flows by gravity, and no other source of energy is used to deliver water to the pointsof use, which had been originally selected to benefit from the qanat. This is in starkcontrast to the tremendous amount of hydro- and thermal power produced energy spent inpumping water from ever increasing depth of the over-exploited groundwater resources.Unfortunately, the loss of our most precious resource is accompanied by land subsidence inmany plains, a deleterious occurrence that has been reported from other lands including theUSA and Japan. Extraction of cooling water for one of our major thermal power plants hasresulted in formation of 18 gaping holes, one with a diameter of 22 m and depth of 14 m, inthe Kaboud Rahang Plain, western Iran. Apparently, land subsidence has been noticed inthe power plant area as well.Warning. As most Iranians practically live on the potential aquifers, and as theroutine treatments cannot take all of the harmful substances out of wastewaters, 5
  • 6. therefore, appropriating such waters for irrigating crops is not recommended.However, if detailed geotechnical studies locate isolated potential aquifers, the treatedwastewaters may be used for irrigation of shade trees and industrial woods on theland overlying those aquifers.The establishment of 5+ and 6+tons ha-1 wheat clubs in the 1990s wrongly persuadedfarmers to over-fertilize and over-irrigate their fields in hope of receiving monetaryrewards from the Government. The criterion was more yield per ha, and not the higherWUE. Wheat production at any cost, especially for export, which was a pet project of theformer Minister of Jihad-e-Agriculture, resulted in severe over-exploitation of groundwaterresources all over Iran, particularly in the Province of Fars, which is the breadbasket of thiscountry. Supplementary irrigation of up to 14,000 m3 ha-1of wheat was common place.Thus, aquifer depletion is occurring despite the emphasis of Article33 of the WaterNationalization Act of September 1968 that “… holders of groundwater use permits arerequired to install measuring equipment on their wells and, upon request of the Ministry ofWater and Power, to submit reports on the amount of water used”. Implementing thisregulation would have prevented overdraft and salination of aquifers, and subsidence oftheir overlying land, which are rampant all over the Land of Iran. In my countrywidetravels since 1968 I have never seen a single meter on a well. Now that we have reachedthe bottom of many aquifers, this regulation might be enforced. Disregard for regulations isoutrageous; e.g., the aquifers in the City of Jahrom, which is famous for its citrus fruits anddates, was decreed protected from new withdrawals in 1965. Ignorance of this decree since1979, encouraged by the heavily subsidized diesel fuel and electricity, has lowered thewater table some 50 meters and desiccated many wells and qanats. The recent blanketissuance of permits for the illegally bored wells (upwards of 190,000, countrywide),decided by the majority vote in the House, is tantamount to rewarding the lawbreakers!Speculations in land under the disguise of environmental amelioration, which was followedby illegal boring, has substantially decreased our karstic groundwater resources that hadbeen earmarked solely for drinking in 2001. Desiccation of numerous high yielding springsis an indication of mismanagement of our karstic resources. As the Zagros MountainRanges is highly faulted (Farhoudi, 1987; Sutcliffe and Carpenter, 1967), and most springsissue through faults and fissures, it is logical to assume that freshwater springs and deepwells bored through limestone are interconnected. Furthermore, as some of our alluvialaquifers are also recharged by karstic water, over-pumping of deep wells bored in alluviummay also be a contributing factor in spring desiccation. A case in point is the fault- induced,Fire Temple Spring (Qomp-e-Ateshkadeh in Farsi), a spring with a recorded yield of 280liters per second, which practically desiccated after 3 well were bored close to it inlimestone to supply water for the City of Fasa in southern Iran.Paradigm shift: A water-based economy versus an oil-based economyIranians should be convinced that water-not petroleum-is the liquid that sustains life.Furthermore, the rulers must shift their paradigm that dams do not generate water!They should also realize that the ARG can supply water at least cost and risk, whilebringing many other benefits.Large dam builders have been either ignorant of our geological, geomorphological andclimatic settings, or preferred to ignore them. The Salman-e-Farsi Dam (28˚.53′28″N;53˚.12′03″E), with the annual regulated flow of 313 million m3, has been built on a major 6
  • 7. fault. A cave with an estimated capacity of 150,000 m3 was discovered only after thetermination of construction. The dam site and its surroundings have experienced majorearthquakes in the living memory. The leakage from the Lar Dam, which supplies water toTehran, is sometimes more than the inflow of its reservoir. The late Professor Sahabi(1984), a great Iranian geologist, had vehemently objected to its construction due to thegeothermal activities of the nearby Damavand volcano, the presence of abundant faults,numerous karstic springs and subterranean conduits downstream of the dam, and thegradual rising of the dam site.As of 2008, the majority of the 575 functioning large dams in Iran (Anon., 2010) arelocated on potentially active faults; this is also true for the 13 large dams underconstruction and the proposed 345 other large dams, which are under the different stages ofstudy (Professor Farhoudi, personal communication). Thus, an untold number of Iraniansare in danger of drowning and also the loss of the precious water in case of dam breakage.Tectonic movements resulting from the Red Sea opening not only induces earthquakes inIran, but also causes some 17 mm annual rise in the Iranian Plateau (Prof. Farhoudi,personal communication) that causes instability at the dam sites and their surroundings.Occurrence of huge landslides, and their accelerated plunge into reservoirs, causes asudden rise in water surface and the resultant overflow of the dams and their probablecollapse as it happened on 9 October 1963 to the Vaiont Dam in Italy. The deposition of 26million m3 of earth and rock in the reservoir in less than 10 seconds produced a 25 m tallwave that passed over the dam and ruined it (Kierch, 1964).Evaporation from surface reservoirs is a necessary evil. Annual evaporation from thesurface water ranges 130 to 400 cm, with a mean of some 200 cm in Iran. This, for theDorudzan Reservoir close to Shiraz amounts to109 million m3 per year.Sedimentation behind large dams is another humanly unsolvable problem. The extremelylarge sediment deposition behind the existing dams, which is estimated at 200 million m3 ayear, the capacity of an average man-made reservoir in Iran, drastically decreases theiruseful life. Outcropping of highly erodible formations in most of our watersheds makestheir runoff highly turbid. Sedimentation in man-made reservoirs substantially decreasestheir useful capacity. A large government organization is fighting a losing battle for thepast 51 years. The height oh the Ekbatan Dam has been recently increased by 25 meters,and that of the Dez Dam, the tallest dam in Iran, has been proposed due to sedimentation.The Sefeed-Rude Dam is a case in point. Of the 56,000km2 Sefeed-Rude Basin, only 1,120-km2 (2%) is covered with the Miocene and Plio-Pleistocene badlands. This small area,however, supplies 98% of the sediment in the reservoir of the Sefeed- Rude Dam. About40% of the useful capacity of the reservoir was used up within 18 years; therefore, theuseful life of the reservoir has been less than halved (Anon., 1984). Soil conservationactivities on badlands are an exercise in futility.Unbelievable exorbitant funds have been spent for building large dams, water distributionsystems for their command areas and inter-basin transport. However, contrary to the initialclaim of the water authorities, the main purpose of damming a river in Iran is to providedomestic water for the far away cities. Therefore, the riparian right holders have becomedeprived of their water resources, both surface and groundwater, particularly during therecurrent and prolonged droughts. This unscientific and immoral act is tantamount tousurpation, which is considered a sin by Moslems. Moreover, as TI (2008, 2009) and 7
  • 8. Totten et al. (2010) have righly claimed, the large funds appropriated for dam constructioncreate multiple opportunities for corruption and graft. Using the order of our previoussupreme leader to supply water for the City of Qom as an excuse, the 15th Khordad Damwas built on an unsuitable foundation collecting brackish water that turns saline due toevaporation! En masse city-ward migration and its undesirable aftermaths has been a resultof water mismanagement. A case in point is an over-exploitation of groundwater; this hasresulted in irreversible land settlement, salinization of groundwater, and inevitable soildegradation in numerous plains throughout Iran.What policies can the I.R. Iran adopt to cope with water scarcity?Science-based policy-making. Water resources management is an exact science; therefore,policy-making should be assigned to water scientists of the highest moral standards.Carrying capacity. Water is the number one limiting factor in the well-being of drylandinhabitants; therefore, its availability should be regarded as the topmost criterion forplanning any development project. Policy-makers should be either ecologists parexcellence, or heed their consultation.Transparency. The true costs of dams and their water delivery systems, the fundsappropriated for soil conservation projects implemented to reduce reservoir silting, themonetary losses accrued due to the harmful environmental impacts, and therefore, the realvalue of the water the dams regulate should be given to provide a solid baseline againstwhich other available alternatives to supply and store water may be assessed. This directiveis also important in education and capacity building, as transparency is the prerequisite forrestoring public’s confidence in the system. To achieve the desired impact, the water sectorshould first prove its integrity.Education. Most of our younger generation, who has been raised on relatively abundantwater, is ignorant of the real value of this life-giving substance. Drastic measures have tobe taken to instill in them that water is a very limited resource; thus, it should not bewasted. Including community leaders in decision-making is a hand-on method of educatingthe public in water resources management. Policy-makers and water-related civil servantsshould be “indoctrinated” in water affairs. Although this term might raise some eyebrows,water scarcity has become so severe that our very survival depends on making water assacred as it was when we were Zoroastrian.Respecting riparian and prior appropriation rights. Land ownership adjacent to thebody of water entitles the owner the fair use of water, particularly for irrigation purposes.This is also true for those who have appropriated water for the lands, which are not on thebanks of the rivers. Therefore, the fields which had been irrigated before the flow of theconcerned river were dammed, or transported to another basin, have the priority of wateruse. It should be understood that water belongs to the land and not to its present occupier.Appropriating this water for other uses is tantamount to usurpation that is blasphemous inthe Islamic doctrine. This is also true for well and qanats; prior appropriation dictates thenatural recharge of their aquifers. A severe decline in watertables resulting from dammingthe rivers that recharged the aquifers, and drilling wells that interfere with the yield ofaquifers, is also considered usurpation. 8
  • 9. Water valorization. Moslems believe that water is a gift from Allah; therefore, it is a freegood. Although the Government has set a price for the irrigation and domestic waters, thereal costs of water resources development and delivery is never extracted from the users.This has to be changed. Incentives, such as “more crop per drop”, might encourageirrigators to base their withdrawal on the enhanced WUE.Reinstatement of transhumant pastoralism. Provision of spate-irrigated fodder and basicamenities along the migration routes and campsites is persuasive in attracting theimpoverished settled nomads to resume their previously healthy way of life. This saves onthe water used to produce feed for cattle. Other incentives, such as helping them build theARG system and giving them the title to the developed land seems logical.Agro-ecological zoning. Growing rice and corn in warm and hot deserts is illogical. InIran, rice growing must be limited to the Caspian Sea Coast lowlands. As spring andsummer rainfall decrease the volume of supplementary irrigation for corn, it is better togrow this crop on the foothills and highlands of the northern flank of the Alborz MountainRanges south of the Caspian Sea and in northwestern Iran.Improving water use efficiency. Achieving food security through selection anddevelopment of high-yielding, stress-resistant varieties of small grains for food and feed,and employing improved agronomic practices using the same volume of water istantamount to producing “more crops per drop”.Floodwater harvesting for spate irrigation and artificial recharge of groundwater.This is the most appropriate technology for water development where potential aquifersand floodwater are available. Spate irrigation of low gradient farm fields saves a largevolume of groundwater presently used to raise agronomic crops. As most of our arable soilsare underlain with coarse alluvium of good quality, spate irrigation of such soils achievesARG simultaneously. It is estimated that water delivery and distribution systems take about10% of the fields’ surface area out of production; however, the saving made in water andthe increased yield compensates the reduction in the planted area. Practicality, economicalsoundness, financial feasibility, environmental friendliness, social acceptability, andprovision of employment opportunity are some other attributes of the ARG. Disregardingthe value added job creation the ARG on 14 mha provides 4 million extra occupations inthe I.R.Iran.Withdrawal=ARG. Groundwater users’ obligation is to recharge their aquifers as much asthey withdraw from them. This, in a long term, stabilizes the watertable as the naturalrecharge compensates for the over-exploitation in previous years.Financial responsibility. An aquifer is not a common pool resource; thus, only those whopay for its recharge and maintenance should have the right to water extraction. Adhering tothis policy saves significant time and expenses in adjudication of water rights (NAS, 2008).Capacity building. As I advocate spate irrigation and ARG as opposed to building largedams, specialized training should be provided for the designers and practitioners offloodwater harvesting for those purposes. 9
  • 10. Termination of subsidizing electricity for pumping water. Cheap electricity and ease ofoperation as compared with using diesel fuel to energize pumps has been instrumental inthe accelerated lowering of watertables. Charging the real cost of production and deliverywould persuade irrigators to improve their WUE.Replacing wheat and barley production with camel farming. Raising camels in our lowgradient rangelands suitable for spate irrigation is a logical alternative to growing irrigatedcereals for earning cash in warm and hot places. Camels browse thorny bushes avoided bymost ruminants. Furthermore, they do not require daily watering. As the camel pastures areunderlain with coarse alluvium, spate irrigation simultaneously recharges the underneathaquifers. Although we have not executed a methodical research on camel farming,anecdotal evidence may support this contention. A group of farmers in the Gareh BygonePlain put 14 weaned camels on the ARG systems planted with quail bush (Atriplexlentiformis [Torr.] S. Wats.) and some fodder trees. The camels were sold at 100% profitafter 6 moths.Enforcing laws and regulations. No one should be allowed to pump or divert more waterthan his/her permit allows. Installation of tamper-proof water meters on every pump, andalso at the inlets of irrigated farms benefiting from surface waters, reduces over-irrigation.Vigilant and honest water riders should oversee water diversion at inlets and check theprecision of meters installed on pumps.Rejuvenation of the desiccated qanats, rehabilitation of the ruined ones, andconstruction of new qanats. An unheard of wealth in the form of abandoned qanatsis buried under the Land of Iran. Bringing this life-giving system back to work is possibleby raising the watertable through the ARG and repairing the damaged ones. Tunnel boringmachines may be used to speed up construction activities.Domestic water utilization. Per capita consumption of 20 liters per day provides a healthyshare for a clean living. It is 340 liters in Shiraz! Although leakage and theft have inflatedthe real per capita consumption, the actual consumption is many fold the real need of aperson. This has to be changed! It is true that low spenders were rewarded by not payingfor water delivery services; however, monetary fines had not stopped the well-to-do fromusing water profusely. Cutting the delivery might remind the extravagant consumers of thevital importance of water. This policy substantially decreases wastewater, and the costs ofits treatment and transport.Assessing environmental impacts. Desiccation of numerous lakes, wetlands and aquifersdue to the damming of their contributing rivers has occurred in the I.R.Iran. Landsubsidence due to the over-drafting of fine-grained aquifers is rampant in many plains ofthis country. Water users’ security is at risk due to the mismanagement of surface andground waters. This necessitates employing independent ecologists to assess the presentsituation and recommend measures to remedy the broken down systems.Family planning. Encouraging high fertility during the 8-year war with Iraq (1980-1987)caused a steep rise in our population. Although the rate has diminished in recent years, it isbecoming more than the carrying capacity of our water resources. Achieving zeropopulation growth may save us from certain demise. 10
  • 11. AcknowledgmentsAppreciation is extended to Mr. Abbas Abdollahipanah, Mr. Naser Abdollahipanah, andSayyed Hamid Mesbah for providing the transhumant census for the past 71 years, and toDr. Mehrdad Rahnamaee for providing the latest National Water Data.References*Adeel, Z., Bogardi, J., Braeuel, C., Chasek, P., Niamir-Fuller, M., Gabriels, D.,King, C., Knabe, F., Kowsar, A., Salem, B., Schaaf, Th., Shepherd, G., and Thomas, R.2007. Overcoming one of the greatest environmental challenges of our times: Re-thinkingpolicies to cope with desertification. A policy brief based on the Joint InternationalConference:" Desertification and the International Policy Imperative"Algiers, Algeria, 17-19 Dec. 2006. UNU- INWEH, Hamilton, Ontario, Canada.*Adeel, Z, Dent, D., Dobie, Ph., Mesrmann, Ch., Niamir-Fuller, M., Quatrini, S.,Sokona,Y. 2009. Revitalizing the UNCCD. The United Nations University.*Adeel, Z, King, C., Schaaf, Th., Thomas, R., Schuster, B. 2008. People in marginaldrylands: Managing natural resources to improve human well-being. The United NationsUniversity.*Ahmadi, H., and Zolanvar, A. 1984. Application of the mathematical modeling in theqanat water conservation. p.104-135. In M.H. Enayat (Ed.) Proc. Conf. on Modernization in Domestic Agriculture and Industrial Water Utilization. 18-20 Dec. 1984. Water Affairs,Ministry of Power, Tehran (in Farsi).*Al-Karaji, Mohammad ebn al- Hassan al- Hãseb., ca. 1019. Book of the extraction ofhidden waters (Kitãb inbãt al - miyãh al - khafiyya) (Farsi translation from Arabic byHossein Khadiv Jam), 1966. Cultural Foundation of Iran, No. 8. Science in Iran, No.2.Tehran.* Anon., 1984. The sediment removal plan for the Sefeed-Rude Dam (in Farsi). The Northern Region Water Company, Rasht. 26 p. (Mimeo).*Anon., 2001. The compendium of the laws governing the natural resources of the country.The Legal Administration and Inspectoral Office of Forests and Rangelands Organization(in Farsi).*Anon., 2010. Annals of the country’s water resources 2007-2009. Ministry of Power,Project code:WRE1-88028. Tehran (in Farsi).*Bakhtiar, A, Najafi, B, Kowsar, A, Habibian, S.H. 1997. Socio-economic effects offloodwater spreading systems in the Gareh Bygone Plain. p. 325-332. In Proceedings ofthe 2nd National Conference on Desertification Control Methods, Research Institute ofForests & Rangelands, Tehran, Islamic Republic of Iran (in Farsi).*Behnam, J. 1968. Population. p.468-485. In Fisher, W.B. (Ed.) The Cambridge history ofIran. Volume I, The land of Iran. Cambridge University Press.*Behnia, A. 1988. Kanat: Construction and maintenance. University Publication Center,Tehran (in Farsi). 11
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