A ranking Iranian political figure, Issa Kalantari, recently warned that past mistakes leave Iran with water supplies so insufficient that up to 70 percent, or 55 million out of 78 million Iranians, would be forced to abandon their native country for parts unknown. Many facts buttress Kalantari’s apocalyptic prediction: Once lauded in poetry, Lake Urmia, the Middle East’s largest lake, has lost 95 percent of its water since 1996, going from 31 billion cubic meters to 1.5 billion.

What the Seine is to Paris, the Zayanderud was to Isfahan – except the latter went bone-dry in 2010. Over two-thirds of Iran’s cities and towns are “on the verge of a water crisis” that could result in drinking water shortages; already, thousands of villages depend on water tankers. Unprecedented dust storms disrupt economic activity and damage health. Nor are Iranians alone in peril; many others in the arid Middle East may also be forced into unwanted, penurious, desperate exile. With a unique, magnificent exception, much of the Middle East is running out of water due to such maladies as population growth, short-sighted dictators, distorted economic incentives, and infrastructure-destroying warfare. Some specifics: MORE