Much of Iran is Sinking Due to Drained Aquifers

American missiles are not the only threat to Iran’s physical stability. A geological study has found that the nation’s groundwater is running so low from decades of over-use that many parts of the country have sunk dramatically, causing damage in both agricultural and urban areas.

[social_buttons]Fifty percent of the country’s water is sourced from the wells and only ten percent of the population is able to survive on rainwater alone. The groundwater level has decreased by 1.5 feet annually for the past 15 years, and with little rain and increased water use for Iran’s growing population, the aquifers have had no chance to refill. As a result, some areas have been sinking up to 20 inches a year.

A team of researchers from the German Research Centre for Geosciences compared satellite imagery with water table figures and found a correlation. “Most of the aquifers have recharge times of thousands of years,” said Mahdi Motagh, who led the research. “We see sinkholes and cracks that can be one or two meters wide and several meters deep.” Earthquakes in the region could also become more severe under the dry conditions, Motagh added.

The problem is not unique to Iran. Many basin areas worldwide have had similar problems in the past, including the California’s Bay Area. The solution was simple enough in that case—they began to pump water from the Sierras instead of digging wells—but Iran will have a tougher time since rainfall in the country could soon become scarcer than ever. Climate scientists predict that global warming will only make arid regions like Iran even drier.

Photo Credit: Zongo69 on Flickr under Creative Commons license.

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