Iran: Droughts Emergency Plan of Action (EPoA) DREF Operation n° MDRIR005



Description of the disaster

Overall Drought Situation in Iran:

The Iranian climate is mostly arid or semi-arid and it is heavily affected by depleting water resources, as a result of rising demand, salinization, groundwaters overexploitation, and increasing drought frequency. The country, where groundwater is the primary source of water, has a long history of inefficiency in its water distribution network, particularly in the agricultural sector. Despite not experiencing food insecurity, Iran faces paramount challenges in safeguarding long-term water access during the dry spell. All sectors that rely on the water are exposed, from agriculture to power production and public water supply. Currently, from 2 to 20 million people are at high to medium risk of drought-related impacts. On top of poor precipitation during the 2020-2021 winter, high temperatures have caused more snow to melt, reducing the amount of water stored for later use during the drier months (i.e., late spring and summer).

Since the beginning of the drought onset, research units, the media, and public authorities have been emphasizing the potential severity with time. On 10 July 2021, the First Vice President of Iran, Eshaq Jahangiri stressed that the Islamic Republic of Iran requires national solidarity and integration to overcome challenges and to pass crises. He described water as one of the biggest problems in Iran, saying “if we cannot deal with challenges in time, they can become complicated issues”.

While meteorological/hydrological droughts act as triggers and intensify the rate of depletion in country-wide groundwater storage, basin-scale groundwater depletion in Iran is primarily caused by extensive human water withdrawals. Continuation of unsustainable groundwater management in Iran can lead to potentially irreversible effects on land and the environment, threatening the country’s water, food, and socio-economic security.

Long-term records show that the entire area received no meaningful precipitation between June and October 2020, with very little variation around this figure. As a result, the accumulated deficit up to May 2021 will persist until the end of the year, potentially worsening and spreading drought impacts throughout the region in the coming months