Lake Urmia one step closer to revitalization

December 30, 2020 - 18:19

TEHRAN – A dam for transferring water to Lake Urmia will be inaugurated on Thursday, aiming to flow about 600 million cubic meters of water into the lake annually, another step to implement the lake’s restoration plan which started six years ago.

With this transfer, the lake’s water level will rise by approximately 15 cm, which can compensate for part of the water previously withdrawn from the lake, IRNA quoted Issa Kalantari as saying on Wednesday.

A project on transferring water from the Kani Sib dam to the lake has been proposed by the government and a budget of 3 trillion rials (nearly $71 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) has been earmarked in this regard.

The water transfer tunnel cause Lake Urmia to reach its ecological level over the next seven years, which is 1274.1 meters with 15 billion cubic meters of water and 4,300 square kilometers surface, he stated.

With the transfer of water from Zab River, about 623 million cubic meters of water will enter the lake permanently annually, he highlighted.

Lake’s surface area doubled in 6 years

Lake Urmia’s surface area has reached 2,785 square kilometers, indicating a more than 100 percent rise compared to the lowest volume recorded in the Iranian calendar year 1393 (March 2014-March 2015).

The current level of the lake stands at 1271.24 meters, which increased by more than 1.2 meters compared to the lowest recorded amount, according to Farhad Sarkhosh, head of the Lake Urmia Restoration Program’s office in West Azarbaijan province.

The volume of water also raised by 3.26 billion cubic meters, which has increased more than 5 times compared to the Iranian calendar year 1394 (March 2015-March 2016) and before the Lake Urmia Restoration Program started, he highlighted.

Last year (March 2019- March 2020), over 1.4 billion cubic meters of water released into the lake.

In August, Sarkhosh stated that a new budget amounting to 6.4 trillion rials (nearly $152 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) will be allocated for the Lake Urmia revival, which will be spent on completing semi-finished projects.

Lake Urmia, located in the northwest of Iran, was once the most extensive permanent hypersaline lake in the world. Unsustainable water management in response to increasing demand together with climatic extremes has given rise to the lake's depletion during the last two decades. The lake’s restoration program was established in 2013 and aims to restore the lake within a 10-year program.

At the beginning of the Lake Urmia Restoration Program in 2013, the Lake’s level was about 1270.32 meters, 1783 square kilometers in surface area, and 1.14 billion cubic meters in volume, which indicates a 50 percent increase in the lake’s surface area in comparison to the current water level.

Achieving sustainable rehabilitation requires countless efforts, such as preventing the lake's water flow from entering the agricultural land. Lake Urmia’s condition stabilized with a positive trend due to heavy rainfall, but there is a fear that this trend will be reversed by drought in the coming years.

The above normal levels of rain came to help conservation measures to preserve Lake Urmia, however, it still needs 9.5 billion cubic meters of water to reach its ecological level of 1274.10 meters.