A senior U.N. official has warned that Iran’s water crisis, if left unchecked, will become dangerous for the country in the next two decades, the BBC Persian reports. Serge Nakouzi, the representative of the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) in Iran, added that population growth, climate change, mismanagement of underground water resources and the government’s efforts for food self-sufficiency are the key factors contributing to the country’s water scarcity problems. According to the BBC Persian, Isa Kalantari, a former minister of agriculture in Iran, has also blamed the Iranian government's wrong policies and mismanagement for the country’s worsening water crisis. Nakouzi made the remarks earlier today at an event organized jointly by the FAO and the Iranian government to celebrate the first National Water Day in Tehran.

Comment: The U.N. official’s remark comes as the Iranian media and environmental analysts also warn that water shortage in Iran has reached crisis point, posing serious threat to the country’s agriculture, public health, economy and security. Iran’s water supply has recently reached record low levels. According to Iran’s Ministry of Energy, average precipitation in the country between September 23, 2015 and November 19, 2016 dropped by 82 percent compared to the same period in the previous year. Iran’s Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian recently said that more than 86 percent of water usage in Iran comes from recyclable water resources, more than twice the amount considered “crisis-level” by international standards. He warned that water scarcity has put “Iranian life, civilization and survival at risk.” According to Chitchian, more than 500 Iranian cities and towns are already faced with the shortage of drinking water. Iranian officials claim over-consumption is a key contributing factor as the Iranian population has tripled over the past five decades.  

But the problem is not confined to drinking water. Severe droughts and water mismanagement have crippled the agriculture sector and exacerbated environmental degradation. Iran’s famous Lake Urmia is on the verge of turning into an arid land as its once abundant, blue waters have almost totally vanished.

Water scarcity also carries profound implications for Iran’s security. Recently, Iranian media has reported violent clashes over water across the country. Moreover, disputes over allocation of water have also strained Iran’s relations with some of its neighbors. The Afghan media often accuses Tehran of aiding the Taliban to destabilize western and southern Afghanistan to obstruct construction of water dams and ensure the free flow of Afghan waters into Iran. Last Month, an article in Afghanistan’s largest daily Hasht-e Sobh claimed that Tehran was “blackmailing” Kabul over water agreements between the two countries.

While Iranian officials attribute the country’s water crisis to changes in climate and overpopulation, widespread corruption and mismanagement within the Iranian government are equally to blame. Moreover, while the Iranian regime spends billions of dollars annually on defense and military programs as well as foreign wars, it largely ignores serious environmental problems that directly affect the lives of the Iranian people on a daily basis.