Iran begins pumping water from the Caspian Sea
Proposal for transferring water from the Caspian Sea to the arid northern territories of Iran has been approved by the Iranian parliament. As Eghtesad writes in the article Caspian Sea Water Transfer Awaiting Pilot Project Result, Iran Water and Power Resources Development Company, affiliated to the Energy Ministry, is tasked with carrying out the pilot plan.
“The pilot project is in process and the final decision will be made upon the completion of the test,” Donyay-e-Eqtesad daily reported Reza Ardakanian as saying. "Although Iran is located in an arid and semi-arid area, having access to vast resources of salt water in the north (Caspian Sea) and south (Sea of Oman and the Persian Gulf) offers good prospects. We can benefit from these unconventional resources with the use of modern technology,” Financial Tribune quoted Ardakanian as saying. By desalinating unconventional resources of saline water in the north and south, water for drinking and industrial use could be produced, he added. “Access to two large bodies of water in the north and south holds the promise that workable solutions can be found for water issues. We need to plan and invest for the future. To address the current (water deficit) issue we must acquire modern technology,” the minister said.
The plan to transfer water via a 200km pipeline from Mazandaran Province to Semnan Province has been promoted as a solution to help meet growing demand in the agricultural, industrial and household sectors in the water-stressed regions. The plan involves siphoning 100 million cubic meters of water out of the sea per year to Semnan after desalination.
For and against
However, some environmentalists and MPs from Mazandaran have opposed the plan as “unscientific” and “impractical” that would inflict irrevocable damage on the region’s ecology. They insist that pumping large amounts of water from Caspian Sea would eventually lead to an increase in the sea’s salinity and endanger the habitats it supports. Desalination removes minerals from saline water but also produces huge quantities of brine, which is almost always dumped back into the sea. Experts note that brine is denser than seawater and sinks to the bottom of a water body directly harming the ecosystem.
Despite the objections, the minister said that if all the environmental principles are considered, there would be no problem in implementing the megaprojects. The necessary studies have been completed and reports submitted to the Department of Environment, a governmental organization operating under the supervision of the president.
Isa Kalantari, head of the DoE, earlier announced his preliminary approval for the project, but the final decision has not been made. Those in favor of the project say 90% of the Caspian Sea water comes from rivers that originate in Russia and flow into the Iranian side of the Sea. So even if the brine is dumped back into the sea, it will not have a negative impact on the sea that holds an estimated 80,000 billion cubic meters of water.
“Today, there are technologies that allow us to separate solid salt from the brine in the desalination process. Thus, no more brine will return to the sea,” Ardakanian said, adding that implementation of the scheme depends also on economic viability and cost of equipment and machinery.