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Iran: Water Crisis and Drinking Water Shortages

In a new nationwide poll by Iran Open Data, 84% of respondents reported access to piped drinking water; a third of whom said they experience water shut offs for more than three hours a day.

Water crisis is a global problem. According to the Guardian newspaper, 20% of 41 countries studied around the world use polluted drinking water sources. In some countries, such as Iran, people face daily shortages of drinking water. Also, in countries where the main water supply line is not available, people have to pay to buy drinking water.

Water crisis in Iran has been worsening. All over the country, people, privately and publicly, protested water shortages and shut offs during the past summer, and the domestic media were continually reporting these events. Khuzestan witnessed "peaceful demonstrations," for several days, where a number of protesters were killed by the police.

Several reasons have been given for the water crisis in Iran. Among them were, climate change, flawed land, water management policies and government corruption. Whatever the problem, the result has been drinking water shortages and shut offs in the past few months. In some cases, people had no choice but to purchase drinking water from newly installed water dispensaries; a sign that this crisis is far from over.

How did this happen, and how are the people experiencing it?

  • To gauge people’s experience, Iran Open Data conducted a social media poll in Iran asking the participants to share their observations about the water crisis.
  • Between August 20 and October 3, 2021, 1484 participants, from 31 provinces, answered questions about the water crisis. Tehran had the highest and Kohgiluyeh and Boyer-Ahmad Province had the lowest participation rate.
  • You can see the results of this survey in the following short report.

Where do people get water?

  • Eighty-four percent of participants indicated they drink tap water, while the remaining 16% said they buy their drinking water.

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  • This poll, confirming an expected discrepancy, showed that 77% of rural and 84% of urban populations have access to the main water supply line. Also, 23% of rural, and 15% of urban, population have to purchase drinking water.

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  • A comparison shows that high Human Development Index (HDI) provinces have more access to clean drinking water than low and medium HDI provinces, thus they do not want, or need, to purchase drinking water.

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How much do they spend on water? 

  • Those who buy drinking water say that, on average, they pay about 1,600,000 tomans per month for drinking water.
  • Half of those who purchase spend less than 100,000 tomans, 40% between 100,000 and 1,000,000, and 10% spend more than 1,000,000 per month on water.

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How frequent are the shut offs? 

  • During the week of the study, about 30% of participants who have access to piped drinking water experienced shortages and shut offs.

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How many hours per week has shut offs lasted? 

  • Participants with access to piped drinking water indicated they experienced an average of 3 hours a day shut off during the week of the study.
  • Urbanites have experienced less water supply interruption than the rural population; the second group experienced about 3.3 hours of shut off while the first group experienced less than average shut off period.

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