Although the geographical area historically known as “Persia” has never been properly a “fertile land”, water shortage did not represent a problem for the diverse and multiple populations that inhabited the Iranian Plateau throughout millennia. The ancient Persian civilization could flourish thanks to sophisticated water knowledge and water management strategies that allowed it to become the dominating culture of the vast Persian Empire, which by the year 500 BC, extended from the borders of India to the western coasts of Minor Asia and the Caucasus. Even after the fall of the empire, the successive populations could live in arid areas thanks to an ancient system of water provision and management called “Qanat”. Qanats not only provided water from an underneath water spring to desert lands and remote areas of the region; they also reflected a specific “water cultural system” based on sharing and managing water as a common good. The paper will discuss how water shortage in present day Iran is, on the one hand, related to a progressive abandonment of the Qanats system, substituted by the use of modern irrigation systems, the privatization of water and the progressive abandonment of the common. On the other hand, this abandonment is related with dramatic cultural change and weakening of community identity, impacting the sustainability of human life in the Iranian Plateau’s arid areas.