The Impact of Growth Policies on Water Stress and National Security of the Islamic Republic of Iran

Document Type : Research Paper


Associate professor of political Geography Payame Noor University



Extended Abstract


Water is the most essential element of life and life without water has no meaning. From the distant past, access to reliable and sustainable water resources has been a major factor in the location of settlements and cities and generally a fundamental factor in the formation of civilizations and development. Most of the central plateau of Iran corresponds to the arid and semi-arid belt of the world. The average annual rainfall in Iran is 250 mm and is less than one third of the global average. Accordingly, drought and water scarcity are inherent features of the Central Plateau of Iran. The access of the inhabitants of this region to sustainable and reliable water resources has been one of the major challenges throughout history. To this end, the Iranians, by inventing the mechanism of the aqueduct (Qanat) from three thousand years ago, created a suitable method of access to water based on the principle of respect for the environment and full compatibility with nature. The aqueduct is one of the few human achievements that has a historical continuity of about three thousand years and is still efficient. Our ancestors have observed "sustainable development" and good water governance in the structure and system of the aqueduct. The important heritage and social capital of the aqueduct and Karez system and the optimal governance of water based on adaptation to the arid and semi-arid nature of Iran has been the most important element in the formation of the brilliant Iranian civilization. However, in recent decades, due to climate change and increasing demand and consumption of water due to population growth and the implementation of growth and development policies centered on agriculture and urbanism and some industries, has suffered from ecological imbalance and water stress.


This research is of applied type and was done by descriptive-analytical method. The required data were obtained in a library manner from official institutions and organizations of the country (Statistics Center of Iran, Ministry of Energy, and Meteorological Organization). Arc GIS software was used to draw and prepare maps and Excel was used to draw charts. Then, with logical reasoning, we interpret and analyze the data. Finally, attention was paid to the analysis of the causes and sources of water stress and its impact on the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran.


Iran is located between 25 and 40 degrees north latitude and near the tropic of cancer and corresponds to the desert belt of the world and in the heart of the arid region of the Middle East and Southwest Asia. In general, drought, water scarcity and low rainfall and hot and dry climate are inherent and geographical features of the Central Plateau of Iran. However, this arid, semi-arid and low-rainfall region has been one of the great cradles of human civilization and the origin of Iran's glorious culture and civilization. This great civilization and its historical continuity are based on the optimal management of water resources and the invention of water mechanisms compatible with the arid climate of Iran. Iran is one of the great civilizations that has a rich indigenous culture and knowledge in the field of groundwater resources management and adaptation to water shortage conditions and has been able to manage this vital element well in both supply and demand for many years. The arrival of modernity in Iran and the increasing trend of technological developments in recent decades and the influence of political-economic ideas of Fordism and neo-liberalism and the originality of production and consumerism and with the slogan of economic growth, increased the demand for water. So that from 13 thousand deep wells and 33 thousand semi-deep wells in 1972-1973 to more than 210 thousand deep wells and about 600 thousand semi-deep wells in 2017-2018. The fever of economic growth, the expansion of agriculture, and water supply for cities and metropolises created a movement of dam-making and control of surface water runoff. So that from 19 large dams before the Islamic Revolution of 1979 to 41 dams in the years 1989 to 1997 during the construction government (Hashemi Rafsanjani) and 89 dams in the reform government (Khatami) and 146 dams in the government of Mehrvarzi (Ahmadinejad) and in total to 176 large reservoir dams reached equilibrium government (Ruhani). The growth rate of Iran's population and the growing cities and urbanism and lifestyle changes based on welfare and consumerism indicators, has sharply increased the per capita water consumption in Iran. From the population of about 19 million in Iran in 1335 to about 80 million in 2017 and during 6 decades more than quadrupled. All the policies of growth and increase in demand for water took place while Iran's renewable water resources were stable and even decreased due to continuous droughts and climate change.

Insufficiency of water resources, declining aquifers, drying rivers and lakes and wetlands, and lack of stable water supply have caused water stress and widespread public dissatisfaction, especially among farmers and ranchers. This situation has gradually found political and security aspects following various protests and riots in Khuzestan, Isfahan, Azerbaijanis and Chaharmahal Bakhtiari provinces.


The results show that the development programs are based on the policy of quantitative growth. Decision makers and policy makers have implemented development programs without environmental considerations and especially non-compliance with natural resources and sustainability of water resources. It has posed irreparable risks to biological foundations and water resources. This trend, along with climate change, Iran's self-sufficiency and self-reliance policies, and US sanctions policies have exacerbated water stress, resulting in public discontent and social unrest, and increased competition for water resources. This issue has directly affected the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran. If this trend continues, the national security of the Islamic Republic of Iran will be threatened more than ever.


Main Subjects

Articles in Press, Accepted Manuscript
Available Online from 02 January 2024
  • Receive Date: 12 June 2023
  • Revise Date: 27 December 2023
  • Accept Date: 02 January 2024