But the dry season soon follows, and the rivers slow to a trickle. If there is not enough rain, yields will be poor. Some farmers irrigate their crops with groundwater from shallow tubewells, but the water level sinks rapidly, and wells soon run dry.
For one slice of Mazandaran Province, this will soon change. A new dam is being built in the headwaters of the Babol River. Once it is complete in 2007, this dam will regulate the flow of the river. Water will no longer rush unused down to the sea; instead, it will be stored in the reservoir behind the dam, and will be released gradually to keep the flow of the river at a more constant level.
The Alborz Integrated Land and Water Management Project is a key part of this effort. A joint project of the Government of Iran and the World Bank, this 7-year (2006-12) project is modernizing irrigation and drainage systems in the basins of the Babol, and the neighbouring Talar and Siah rivers. The dam and main canal are being built with separate funding from the Government of Iran. The Alborz Project itself is responsible for:
The project pilots a holistic approach to managing land and water resources at the river basin level. It helps farmers organize into Water Users' Associations, creates a Basin Water Council to manage water allocation, and manages a Basin Water Fund to support community-based activities for water and natural resources conservation. The project is introducing community-based land and water conservation to reduce soil erosion and protect water quality, particularly in poor communities. It is hoped that the lessons from this project can be replicated in the rest of the country.
To ensure the infrastructure is sustainable and water is used economically, the project promotes participation by local stakeholders in deciding how to allocate and distribute water at both the basin and farm levels. It also devolves responsibility for operations and maintenance to the people who use the water.
The project has five components:
Click here for more details on these components.
The project is funded by the Government of Iran ($US 80 million) and through a World Bank loan ($ 120 million) under project number P071170.