Water transfer: A fix that may fail

Document Type

Conference Proceeding

Publication Date



To address severe water stress in the Zayandeh-Rud River Basin in central Iran, a number of inter-basin water transfer projects have been implemented that have more than doubled the natural flow of the river. This study aims to evaluate the reliability of inter-basin water transfer as a long-term solution to meet the growing water demand in this basin. A system dynamics model is developed to capture the interrelationships between different sub-systems of the river basin, namely the hydrologic, socioeconomic, and agricultural sub-systems. Results indicate that supplying more water will lead to watershed development and consequently increased water demand, when the interrelated dynamics of the problems are ignored. It is demonstrated that the «fixes that backfire» archetype dominates the Zayandeh-Rud River Basin management system. This archetype hypothesizes that the water shortage problem will diminish by water transfer projects, for a short while and then more severe water stress returns to the basin in the long run. Therefore, inter-basin water transfer alone is an inadequate water management solution, with a potential to cause significant unintended consequences and secondary negative effects over time. © 2013 American Society of Civil Engineers.

Publication Title

World Environmental and Water Resources Congress 2013: Showcasing the Future - Proceedings of the 2013 Congress