Reckless Policies Leave Iranian Communities Facing Severe Water Crises

(New York, N.Y.) — As the international community marks the 30th annual World Water Day, a day to encourage individuals, organizations, and governments to address water-related challenges, the Islamic Republic of Iran is under increasing scrutiny for its systemic mismanagement of Iran’s natural resources.

In 2022, the U.N. World Water Development Report noted that Iran was one of the world's top groundwater extractors. Indeed, Iran has extracted 70 percent of its groundwater, and the depletion of the water table has left much of the remaining groundwater brackish and unusable. Due to Iran’s unsustainable and wasteful farming practices, the country is the world’s worst offender in terms of consuming its renewable water resources.  

United Against Nuclear Iran (UANI)’s resource, Iran’s War On The Environment And Environmentalists, highlights the risk of more than half of Iran’s population being displaced over the next 25 years as a result of Iran’s agricultural mismanagement and reckless over-construction of dams, which has gravely stressed the country’s water resources. More than 300 of Iran’s 609 aquifers have already been depleted, and the rivers that historically replenished them have been blocked. Earlier this year, Iran International reported that “270 cities and towns are suffering from acute water shortage as water levels at dams have dropped to critically low levels.”

Poorer communities have disproportionately suffered environmental consequences like water shortages, loss of cultivable farmland, and sand and dust storms. In August 2022, protests massed over sharply reduced or even entirely cut off water supplies in Hamedan, Shahr-e Kord, and a village in Kazerun County. In December, TIME reported that “protesters have referenced the dried up Urmia salt lake and Zayandeh Rud river, which have emerged as symbols of the regime’s incompetence.”  

Tehran’s mismanagement has harmed neighboring countries as well. Rather than distributing shared water sources with Iraq equitably, Iran has dammed and diverted the tributaries originating in its territory feeding into the Tigris River for its own purposes, significantly curtailing water flows to the vital Iraqi lifeline. At the same time, Iran has gone as far as training and arming the Taliban to sabotage Afghan dam construction upstream to prevent any disruption of water flows to its own territory.  

To read UANI’s Iran’s War On The Environment And Environmentalists resource, please click here.