Iran’s focus on food self-sufficiency has led to an emphasis on increasing water volumes available for irrigation with little attention to water use efficiency, and no attention at all to the role of consumption and trade. To better understand the development of water consumption in relation to food production, consumption, and trade, we carried out the first comprehensive water footprint assessment (WFA) for Iran, for the period 1980–2010, and estimated the water saving per province associated with interprovincial and international crop trade. Based on the AquaCrop model, we estimated the green and blue water footprint (WF) related to both the production and consumption of 26 crops, per year and on a daily basis, for 30 provinces of Iran. We find that, in the period 1980–2010, crop production increased by 175%, the total WF of crop production by 122%, and the blue WF by 20%. The national population grew by 92%, and the crop consumption per capita by 20%, resulting in a 130% increase in total food consumption and a 110% increase in the total WF of national crop consumption. In 2010, 26% of the total water consumption in the semi-arid region served the production of crops for export to other regions within Iran (mainly cereals) or abroad (mainly fruits and nuts). Iran’s interprovincial virtual water trade grew by a factor of 1.6, which was mainly due to increased interprovincial trade in cereals, nuts, and fruits. Current Iranian food and water policy could be enriched by reducing the WFs of crop production to certain benchmark levels per crop and climatic region and aligning cropping patterns to spatial differences in water availability and productivities, and by paying due attention to the increasing food consumption per capita in Iran.
This is an open access article distributed under the Creative Commons Attribution License
which permits unrestricted use, distribution, and reproduction in any medium, provided the original work is properly cited