August 1, 2023

Iran's cross-border water crisis ignored amid domestic turmoil

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by Farhad Rezaei, Senior Research Fellow

This issue extends beyond Iran’s borders and carries the potential for escalating tensions with its neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan.

The escalating effects of climate change and increasing temperatures have intensified the focus on Iran’s water crisis, particularly concerning its domestic impact and the ensuing socio-political turmoil. However, the implications of this crisis on Iran’s relations with its two key neighbors, Iraq and Afghanistan, often remain minimally addressed or entirely overlooked in these discussions.

The water crisis in Iran is severe, exacerbated by climate change, water mismanagement, and increasing temperatures. The situation is particularly critical in the southern provinces of Sistan and Baluchestan and Khuzestan in the southwest of Iran, where extreme heat combined with dwindling water resources is causing significant hardship. The crisis, which experts describe as “water bankruptcy,” stems from poor water management policies that have led to overconsumption and resource depletion.