International Rainwater Catchment Systems Conference
Catchment: An Answer to the Water Scarcity of the Next Millennium."
Petrolina, Brazil - July 1999
Section 7: Water Quality
Contamination of Water Resources Due to the Gulf War
Abolghasem Tavassoli & M. H. Mahdian
Groundwater reserves are recharged for the most part by rain
that infiltrates through the soil into the underlying layers. These reserves
are occasionally augmented by streams and rivers that loose water to the
underground strata. Once underground, the water flows at rates ranging from
more than 10 meters a day, to as little as 1 meter a year, until it reaches an
outlet. This may take the form of a spring, or of a system of slow seepage at
the ground surface. It is this seepage that kept rivers flowing during dry
Some 2500 years ago, the use of "Qantas" was developed in
Iran. These are long, horizontal galleries, connecting aquifers at the foot of
mountains to fields and villages several kilometers away. The use of Qantas
spread, as far afield as Egypt, China and Afghanistan, and many such streams
are still used today. Once pollutants reach the water, it, may take a very long
time to flush out the aquifer completely. Furthermore, pollution can take a
very long time to show itself since the water within aquifers moves so slowly.
Northern coastal regions of the Persian Gulf include major
riverine systems. These are Karkheh, Karun, Maroon - Jarahi, Zohreh,
Shapor-Daleki, Mand, Sahel Jonoobi, Kal, and Minab-Bandar Abbas. The total area
covered by these water resources systems is 363381 km2.
Annual precipitation is about 185 mm in Kerman Province to about
250 mm in Khuzestan and greater in provinces located in the Zagros mountain
ranges. Most of the rain and snow precipates in winter and early spring.
Shallower underground water resources are sued for agricultural irrigation and
drinking. The pollutant affects of the 1991 war of Iraq against Kuwait, on
water resources, have been obvious since the measured data of acid rain and
black rain (soot), showed the contamination of water resources used widely for
drinking, irrigation, and industrial purposes. Once polluted, aquifers are
difficult, in fact, sometimes impossible to clean up. Samples of water (both
surface and underground) from Khozestan region have had contaminating compounds
following the burning of Kuwait oil wells and precipitation of black rain.
Since contaminated rain incidences accounted for about 30% of the annual
regional of underground water depositions (a total of 13353 ´ 106 m3); i. e. 4 ´ 109 m3 of
According to the WHO report, about 4 billion cubic meter of
affective rainfall has been contaminated by different hazardous materials in
arid areas at the southern part of Iran. In case of using this source of water,
it is necessary to clean up or dilute the water before using it for any
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