International media is so obsessed with Iran’s forbidden access to nuclear energy and the possibility of war that a host of other issues far more worrying than war are being ignored. And it starts with water.
Iran’s population of 75 million faces chronic water shortages, according to a recent story published in Al Monitor.
Not only have three of its major lakes dried up, including Lake Orumieh, the tragic devastation of which we have covered several times, Lake Haman, and Lake Bakhtegan, but changes in weather patterns as a result of rising global temperatures ensure very little renewal.
“Here in Iran, we are situated in a low-precipitation belt of the planet,” Gary Lewis, the UN resident coordinator in Iran, told Al-Monitor. “One primary concern must therefore be water. We are at risk of a perfect storm: water scarcity, land degradation and climate change all feeding into each other.”
Unlike Israel, where water shortages have long been a fact of life, the Iranian government has done very little about educating the masses to conserve water. As a result, they act as if there is a never-ending source.
Currently the average Iranian uses 70 percent more water than the global average, Lewis told the paper. Shopkeepers in Tehran are said to wash their storefront sidewalks with water instead of using a broom, and in the heat of the day during a recent heat wave, municipal workers were seen watering with full flow hoses.
Agriculture uses approximately 90 percent of the country’s water, and approximately 70 percent of that is wasted. This is a sad state of affairs for a nation that boasts an impressive history of sustainable water management practices.
Israel and Iran are arch enemies, and so much time and energy is wasted perpetuating this lingering political hatred, but the latter nation could stand to learn from Israel’s super efficient irrigation practices and ingenuous desert farming.
Water scarcity is a reality the entire Middle East has always faced, but as temperatures soar, ground aquifers run low, and populations grow, the situation becomes more perilous.
Fortunately, there is some evidence that water scarcity leads more to peace than it does to war, despite incendiary rhetoric to the contrary. Already Palestinians, Israelis and Jordanians cooperate extensively behind the scenes to improve the state of the Jordan River and the Dead Sea.
Maybe, just maybe, we can dream that one day Iran and Israel will make friends.
Image of Tehran skyline, Shutterstock