My Relation to Water, Snow and Drought
Time is ticking, and we must do anything in our hands to save water, the very source of life.
Iran, Western Asia
Story by Mani Nouri
Published on January 26, 2020. Reading time: 5 minutes
I am an Iranian who recently graduated from my graduate studies in Montreal. It snows heavily in Montreal during the winters, which is both a nuisance and nostalgic for me. Every time I have difficulties passing through the half meter snow on the way to the university, my thoughts flash back to my childhood in Tehran, the capital of Iran, where I lived much of my life. I think back of those nights in which I was nervously preparing for an exam that I would have the day after. While I was studying in my room and looking out of the window, suddenly, snowflakes would start to fall en masse, like little angles. Like all other students, I would stare at the TV, excitedly waiting for the news to announce the closure of the schools due to the heavy snow.
I pity the new generation for not having experienced those exciting nights. These days, in Tehran, the smog has replaced the beautiful white snow in causing school closure. The air pollution in winter wanders above Tehran’s skyscraper like a ghost and could cause school closure for days, either because it’s too unhealthy or to reduce traffic.
Since then, I have learned that snow is much more than only a provider of school holidays. More importantly, snow is the provider of the essence of life: water. This is particularly the case for agriculture in Iran, which relies on melted snow coming from the mountains to water its vast fields in the dry summers. In Iran, most of the rainfall takes place in the cold season, which is fruitless for the farmers, as agricultural activities are minimum in winter, and they don’t grow many crops in this season. So what do they do?
As the warm season begins and rainfall decreases, farmers’ need for water increases. Here comes the sweet melting snow to the rescue by forming flows of water towards the downhill fields. Importantly, the melting snow sinks deep down into the earth and forms the underground water reservoirs that have taken thousands if not millions to form; they are a treasure for the farmers to irrigate their fields.
However, this treasure is by no means unlimited if you do not treat it like one. For example, in Isfahan, the cultural capital of Iran where I often go to visit family, the Zayandeh-rud River (meaning life-giver river) doesn’t give its vibrant touch to the city in summer anymore. Part of its water is being transferred to Yazd province in the southeast of Isfahan, to irrigate the rice paddies in the middle of the desert!
It is as unsustainable as it sounds: water-intensive products such as rice and watermelon are abundanty grown here, as the Iranian government wants to pursue agricultural self-sufficiency. But not only that: we are currently producing enough surplus even to export these products. Add this with old-fashioned methods of irrigation and careless dam building, and you can already imagine that the costs borne by the fragile Iranian ecology, are a lot more than that it can carry.
The grave issue is that many people are not well aware of these environmental issues and worse than that, the government seems to be even less aware. Environmental issues are just becoming too normal for society today, but it is far from normal. In fact, new reports show that one-quarter of the world’s population faces a dire water crisis! Yet, Iran and other countries seem indifferent about it, and these water problems are left for nature to solve by itself.
Time is ticking, and we must do anything in our hands to save water, the very source of life. In this fight, all countries should aide one another as the environmental consequences will bring the whole planet down sooner or later. The fact is that there is nowhere else that we can run into from the blue planet, so why don’t we start changing our water consumption habits today?
 Want to read more about air pollution in other countries? Check out Anna's story on air pollution in Uganda: https://correspondentsoftheworld.com/story.php?story=air-pollution-in-kampala-uganda-2
 Madani, Kaveh, Amir AghaKouchak, and Ali Mirchi. "Iran’s socio-economic drought: challenges of a water-bankrupt nation." Iranian studies 49, no. 6 (2016): 997-1016. http://amir.eng.uci.edu/publications/16_IR_Socio_Economic_Drought.pdf
 Sengupta, Somini Sengupta, and Weiyi Cai. "A Quarter of Humanity Faces Looming Water Crises." The New York Times. Last modified August 6, 2019. https://www.nytimes.com/interactive/2019/08/06/climate/world-water-stress.html.
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