Lake Urmia water level keeps rising

January 24, 2020 - 19:42

TEHRAN – The level of water at Lake Urmia is on the rise, as increased by a 1.7 billion cubic meters compared to the previous year, according to the studies conducted by the Lake Urmia restoration program committee.

Shared between West Azarbaijan and East Azarbaijan provinces in northwestern Iran, Lake Urmia, was once the largest salt-water lake in the Middle East. 

However, decades of long-standing drought spells and elevated hot summer temperatures that speed up evaporation as well as increased water demands in the agriculture sector shrank the lake drastically. In 1999 the volume of water which was at 30 billion cubic meters drastically decreased to half a billion cubic meters in 2013. Moreover, the lake’s surface area of 5,000 square kilometers in 1997 shrunk to one-tenth of that to 500 square kilometers in 2013.

The lake is expected to reach its ecological level (1,274 meters) within 10 years by completing the restoration plans which started four years ago.

Farhad Sarkhosh, head of the Lake Urmia restoration program’s office in West Azarbaijan province, said the lake’s level has reached 1,271 meters, adding the figure has increased by 68 centimeters compared to last year, according to the latest survey.

He said that the ??lake surface area has reached 2,828 square kilometers, adding that the figure is increased by 689 square kilometers compared to the same period last year.

By the end of last year (March 20, 2019), more than 35 trillion rials (nearly $833 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) spent to revive the lake, he highlighted, concluding, this year 7.2 trillion rials (about $172 million) is earmarked in this manner.

Alireza Shari’at, head of monitoring and supervision department of the Lake Urmia restoration program said in September 2018, that in order to maintain the Lake Urmia ecological balance of 14 billion cubic meters over the next 10 years, an annual amount of 3.3 billion cubic meters of water is required.

The sharp rise in precipitations rates over the past crop year since now has raised hopes for total restoration of the once glorious Lake Urmia.

This is a while, deputy environment chief Masoud Tajrishi told Khabaronline in July 2019 that rainfall is not the only the reason behind Lake Urmia coming back to life. Thus, restoration measures turned out to be effective, unlike the previous years of high rainfall poured over the lake but did not raise the lake level.

The effort put into properly dredging and clearing of weed and vegetation in river beds as a way came efficient in the lake conservation, he added.