University of Oulu

Abou Zaki, N., Torabi Haghighi, A., Rossi, P. M., Tourian, M. J., Bakhshaee, A., & Kløve, B. (2020). Evaluating Impacts of Irrigation and Drought on River, Groundwater and a Terminal Wetland in the Zayanderud Basin, Iran. Water, 12(5), 1302. doi:10.3390/w12051302

Evaluating impacts of irrigation and drought on river, groundwater and a terminal Wetland in the Zayanderud Basin, Iran

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Author: Zaki, Nizar Abou1; Haghighi, Ali Torabi1; Rossi, Pekka M.1;
Organizations: 1Water, Energy and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, University of Oulu, 90570 Oulu, Finland
2Institute of Geodesy, Universität Stuttgart, Keplerstraße 7, 70174 Stuttgart, Germany
3Department of Civil, Chemical, Environmental and Material Engineering, University of Bologna, 40126 Bologna, Italy
Format: article
Version: published version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Multidisciplinary Digital Publishing Institute, 2020
Publish Date: 2020-06-25


The Zayanderud Basin is an important agricultural area in central Iran. In the Basin, irrigation consumes more than 90 percent of the water used, which threatens both the downstream historical city of Isfahan and the Gavkhuni Wetland reserve—the final recipient of the river water. To analyze impacts of land use changes and the occurrence of metrological and hydrological drought, we used groundwater data from 30 wells, the standardized precipitation index (SPI) and the streamflow drought index (SDI). Changes in the wetland were analyzed using normalized difference water index (NDWI) values and water mass depletion in the Basin was also assessed with gravity recovery and climate experiment (GRACE)-derived data. The results show that in 45 out of studied 50 years, the climate can be considered as normal in respect to mean precipitation amount, but hydrological droughts exist in more than half of the recorded years. The hydrological drought occurrence increased after the 1970s when large irrigation schemes were introduced. In recent decades, the flow rate reached zero in the downstream part of the Zayanderud River. NDWI values confirmed the severe drying of the Gavkhuni Wetland on several occasions, when compared to in situ data. The water mass depletion rate in the Basin is estimated to be 30 (±5) mm annually; groundwater exploitation has reached an average of 365 Mm³ annually, with a constant annual drop of 1 to 2.5 meters in the groundwater level annually. The results demonstrate the connection between groundwater and surface water resources management and highlight that groundwater depletion and the repeated occurrence of the Zayanderud River hydrological drought are directly related to human activities. The results can be used to assess sustainability of water management in the Basin.

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Series: Water
ISSN: 2073-4441
ISSN-E: 2073-4441
ISSN-L: 2073-4441
Volume: 12
Issue: 5
Article number: 1302
DOI: 10.3390/w12051302
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
Funding: This research was funded MAA-Ja Vesitekniikan Tuki R.Y. (MVTT), Grant Number 38849.
Copyright information: © 2020 by the authors. Licensee MDPI, Basel, Switzerland. This article is an open access article distributed under the terms and conditions of the Creative Commons Attribution (CC BY) license (