Water Bankruptcy and Politics in Iran

Date: Oct 17, 2018
Time: 12:00pm - 1:00pm
Location: Orbach Science Library, 240
Closest Parking: Parking Lot V10 or P13


Presented in cooperation with the UCR School of Public Policy

Frequent droughts coupled with over-abstraction of surface and groundwater through a large network of hydraulic infrastructure and deep wells have escalated Iran’s water situation to a critical level. This is evidenced by drying lakes, rivers and wetlands, declining groundwater levels, land subsidence, water quality degradation, soil erosion, desertification, and more frequent dust storms.

In this seminar, Kaveh Madani, a former deputy head of Iran’s Department of Environment, overviews the major drivers of Iran’s water problems and shares his observations during his service as the Deputy Vice President of a country that is under strong external and internal pressure. He argues that Iran is suffering from a socio-economic drought—i.e. “water bankruptcy,” where water demand exceeds the natural water supply significantly.

Madani believes that the current structure of the water governance system and the food dependence paranoia in Iran leaves minimal hope for a meaningful reform that can address Iran’s water problems in a timely manner. In this talk, he reviews how the internal politics forced him to eventually resign from his post after being ladled as a ‘water terrorist’ and getting accused of espionage for CIA, MI6 and Mossad.


Dr. Kaveh Madani is an environmental scientist and activist, Iran’s former Deputy Vice President as the former Deputy Head of the country’s Department of Environment, the former Vice President of the UN Environment Assembly Bureau, and a Reader in Systems Analysis and Policy at the Centre for Environmental Policy of Imperial College London.

His core experience and research interests include integrated water, environmental, and energy management. He has more than 200 publications and has received numerous awards for his fundamental research contributions, teaching, as well as outreach and humanitarian activities, including the New Faces of Civil Engineering recognition in 2012, the Arne Richter Award for Outstanding Young Scientists in 2016, and the Walter Huber Civil Engineering Research Prize in 2017.

He has worked extensively on water, environmental, climate change and energy problems in North America, Europe, Africa, Asia and the MENA region. In recent years, he has played a major role in raising public awareness about water and environmental problems in Iran. His major outreach and research activities have influenced water policy in Iran, leading to his nomination for executive and political positions with a strong support from Iranian environmental NGOs and activists.