Wednesday, May 6, 2015

What California and Iran have in common: long-lasting drought and irrational beliefs about it

The NY Times series, Our Man in Tehran, features the dry river under the historic bridge of 33 arches in the ancient capitol of Isfahan. A short print version is here, but the 6-minute video is informative and an interesting look inside Iran. It captures something else Iran shares with California: an irrational belief, at least by some, that rainy days will be here again. Here are a couple of snippets.

Signs of the drought in Iran — which, according to experts, has lasted for more than two decades — are not very visible in the capital. There are many parks and trees because of the active city government.

But make no mistake: The city is dry. Its underground water supplies are depleted, and officials have long warned that, one day, the trees will dry up and water might need to be rationed.

Outside Tehran the situation is much worse, and some experts predict that the south will become uninhabitable if the drought persists.

For example:

Nowhere is the drought more visible than in Iran’s former capital, Isfahan, a desert city 250 miles south of here. It is home to a once mighty river, the Zayanderud, or the River of Life, that cuts through the historic center like a clumsily rolled out carpet.

Over the past three years, however, the river has been dry, the result of little rainfall and a lack of sufficient water management. Residents who in the past would stroll along Isfahan’s riverbanks and breathe in the cool breeze off the flowing water instead cover their faces to defend against the dust blowing from the dry riverbeds.

But just like wealthy Californians, Tehranians keep sucking up the remaining water.

Still, to the dismay of those aware of Iran’s water problems, many in Tehran keep washing their cars with water from wells that they somehow believe will fill up miraculously — even though average rainfall has dropped and the city’s population has tripled in the past 30 years.

One take-away message: despite our geopolitical differences with Iran, behaviors and beliefs of the occupants of both pieces of real estate have much in common.

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