The Socio-Ecological Analytical Framework of Water Scarcity in Rafsanjan Township, Iran

The Socio-Ecological Analytical Framework of Water Scarcity in Rafsanjan Township, Iran

S. Mehryar R. Sliuzas A. Sharifi M.F.A.M. Van Maarseveen 

Department of Urban and Regional Planning and Geoinformation Management, Faculty of Geoinformation Science and Earth Observation (ITC), University of Twente, Netherlands

31 December 2016
| Citation



Ground water scarcity is a main socio-ecological challenge in the Middle East. While ground water reserves seem vast, the impacts of over-exploitation and inadequate control over water consumption may threaten the sustainability of aquifers. The signs of aquifer depletion and its influence on water accessibility have become apparent in recent years. Using the case of Rafsanjan Township, Iran, this study aims to understand the socio-ecological factors and their inter-relationships in driving and exacerbating the water crisis situation, the ongoing policy responses and the possible consequences of current trends. The Drivers, Pressures, State, Impacts and Responses (DPSIR) framework, developed by the European Environmental Agency in 1999, is used to analyze the components of the socio-ecological system. Inputs are generated through a time series analysis of Landsat images, extracted spatial datasets, secondary literature and government reports.

This study illustrates the conflict between rapid economic development policies that have simulated the expansion of pistachio orchards on the one hand and sustainable water resource management on the other. Some responses based on a long-term socio-ecological resilient planning approach may provide a more sustainable perspective, but will require a substantial rethinking of current policies, improved water management practices, and additional research.


DPSIR, socio-ecological system, water resource management, water scarcity.


[1] IWPRI, Sustainability of groundwater resources: case study of Rafsanjan plain. Iran Water Research Institute, 2014, [In Persian]. 

[2] Alizadeh, A. & Keshavarz, A., Status of agricultural water use in Iran. Water Conservation, Reuse, and Recycling: Proceedings of an Iranian-American Workshop, 4, pp. 94–105, 2005.

[3] Madani, K., Water management in Iran: what is causing the looming crisis? Journal of Environmental Studies and Sciences, 4(4), pp. 315–328, 2014.

[4] Gilanpour, O., Challenges of Iran’s agriculture sector in accession Process to the WTO. 

Proceeding of Eighth European Trade Study Meeting, Vienna. Retrieved on http://www., 2006.

[5] Khorami, A.R. & Pierof, S., The role of agriculture in Iran’s economic development. Research Journal of Applied Sciences, Engineering and Technology, 6(11), pp. 1928– 1939, 2013.

[6] Metz, H.C., Iran: A Country Study, 4th edn., Federal Research Division, Library of Congress: Washington, DC, 1989.

[7] Kristensen, P., The DPSIR framework. In workshop on a comprehensive/ detailed assessment of the vulnerability of water resources to environmental change in Africa using river basin approach, 2004. 

[8] Jamab, Research on upgrading the comprehensive water plan. Energy ministry, water and wastewater macro-planning bureau, 2011, [In Persian].

[9] Shakoori, A., Planning and agricultural development in Iran. Critique: Critical Middle Eastern Studies, 15(3), pp. 265–282, 2006.

[10] Kalanatari, I., Failure of environmental authority in lagoons preservation, interviewed by Mozhgan Jamshidi. Etemad, 3170, 2014, [In Persian].

[11] Rudd, D., An Empirical Analysis of Dutch Disease: Developing and Developed Countries. Illinois Wesleyan University, Illinois, 1996.

[12] Farzanegan, M.R. & Markwardt, G., The effects of oil price shocks on the Iranian economy. Energy Economics, 31(1), pp. 134–151, 2009.

[13] Mehryar, S., Sliuzas, R., Sharifi, A. & Maarseveen, M.V., The water crisis and socioecological development profile of Rafsanjan Township, Iran. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment, 199, pp. 271–285, 2015.

[14] Agah, M. & Hassani, M., Water rights in Iranian plateau: through socio-economic changes. Iran Water Research Institute, 2014, [In Persian].

[15] Roudi-Fahimi, F., Iran’s family planning program: responding to a nation’s needs. Population Reference Bureau, 2002.

[16] SCI. Statistical Centre of Iran, 2011, available at

[17] RDPI, Integrated water resource management and planning in Kerman Province.  Kerman Regional Water Authority, 2009, [In Persian].

[18] Alasti, S., Legislation on Use of Water in Agriculture: Iran. The library of congress website, legal reports,

[19] Caponera, D.A. & Nanni, M., Principles of Water Law and Administration: National and International, Taylor & Francis: London, 1, 1992.

[20] UN Water, Coping with water scarcity: challenge of the twenty-first century, In 2007 World Water Day, 2007.

[21] Peters, A.J., Walter-Shea, E.A., Ji, L., Vina, A., Hayes, M. & Svoboda, M.D., Drought monitoring with NDVI-based standardized vegetation index. Photogrammetric  Engineering and Remote Sensing, 68(1), pp. 71–75, 2002.

[22] Al-doski, J., Mansor, S. B. & Shafri, H. Z. M., NDVI Differencing and Post-classification to Detect Vegetation Changes in Halabja City, Iraq. IOSR Journal of Applied  Geology and Geophysics (IOSR-JAGG), 1(2), 2013.

[23] Gopinath, G., Ambili, G., Gregory, S.J. & Anusha, C., Drought risk mapping of southwestern state in the Indian peninsula–A web based application. Journal of Environmental Management, 161, pp. 453–459, 2015.

[24] Himanshu, S., Singh, G. & Kharola, N., Monitoring of drought using satellite data. 

International Research Journal of Earth Sciences, 3(1), pp. 66–72, 2015.

[25] Jamab, Research for adaptation planning in arid and semi-arid climate. National planning and management organization, water resource affairs bureau, 2004, [In Persain].

[26] Razavi, S., Pistachio production, Iran vs. the world. In IV International Symposium on Pistachios and Almonds, pp. 689–694, 2005.

[27] FAOSTAT, 2014. FAOSTAT online database [28] R.P.P.C., Rafsanjan Pistachio Producers Cooperative, available at, (30 August 2014).

[29] Dehghani, M., Rastegarfar, R., Ashrafi, A., Ghazipour, N. & Khorramrooz, H.R., Interferometric SAR and geospatial techniques used for subsidence study in the Rafsanjan Plain. American Journal of Environmental Engineering, 4, pp. 32–40, 2014.

[30] Rahnama, M. & Moafi, H., Investigation of land subsidence due to groundwater withdraw in Rafsanjan plain using GIS software. Arabian Journal of Geosciences, 2(3), pp. 241–246, 2009.

[31] Motagh, M., Walter, T.R., Sharifi, M.A., Fielding, E., Schenk, A., Anderssohn, J. & Zschau, J., Land subsidence in Iran caused by widespread water reservoir overexploitation. Geophysical Research Letters, 35(16), L16403, 2008.

[32] Solaimani, K. & Mortazavi, S.M., Investigation of the land subsidence and its consequences of large groundwater withdrawal in Rafsanjan, Iran. Pakistan Journal of Biological Sciences: PJBS, 11(2), pp. 265–269, 2008.

[33] Gohari, A., Eslamian, S., Mirchi, A., Abedi-Koupaei, J., Bavani, A.M. & Madani, K., Water transfer as a solution to water shortage: a fix that can backfire. Journal of Hydrology, 491, pp. 23–39, 2013.

[34] Moazedi, A., Taravat, M., Jahromi, H. N., Madani, K., Rashedi, A. & Rahimian, S., Energy-water meter: a novel solution for groundwater monitoring and management. In Proceedings of the World Environmental and Water Resources Congress, pp. 962–969, 2011.

[35] Varela-Ortega, C., Sumpsi, J. M., Garrido, A., Blanco, M. A. & Iglesias, E., Water pricing policies, public decision making and farmers’ response: implications for water policy. Agricultural Economics, 19(1–2), pp. 193–202, 1998.

[36] Dumol, M., The Manila water concession: a key government officials diary of the world’s largest water privatization. The World Bank, 1, 2000.

[37] Yang, H., Zhang, X. & ZehndeR, A.J., Water scarcity, pricing mechanism and institutional reform in northern China irrigated agriculture. Agricultural Water Management, 61(2), pp. 143–161, 2003.

[38] Rogers, P., Silva, R.D. & Bhatia, R., Water is an economic good: how to use prices to promote equity, efficiency, and sustainability. Water Policy, 4(1), pp. 1–17, 2002.