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EghtesadOnline: Water stored water in dams around the catchment area of Lake Urmia has decreased by 30% compared to last year, managing director of West Azarbaijan Regional Water Company said.

“There are eight dams in the catchment area which now hold less than 490 million cubic meters of water, down 30% compared to a year ago when they held 700 mcm,” Atabak Jafari was quoted as saying by Energy Today website.

Since the beginning of the current water year in September, the inflow of water into dams that feed the ailing lake namely Salmas, Zola, Boukan, Agh-Chai, Shahre-Chai, Mahabad, Aras and Sarouq dams (all in West Azarbaijan Province) has been around 920 mcm – down 23% compared to the same period in 2019 when more than 1.2 billion cubic meters flowed into the dams, he added.

Boukan, Agh-Chai and Shahre-Chai dams hold 180 mcm, 150 mcm and 100 mcm of water, respectively, Jafari said.

“With programs to revive the distressed lake making their mark, over six billion cubic meters of water from the dams in West Azarbaijan Province has flowed into the world famous lake since 2015.”

Referring to the restoration measures, he said the project to transfer water from Zab River along the western borders to the lake in the northwest is complete and is due to become operational soon.

“This scheme is part of measures to help revive the once largest saltwater lake in the Middle East.”  The plan includes building a dam (Kani Sib in Piranshahr, West Azarbaijan Province), excavating a 50-km tunnel and digging a 20-km canal.

“The National Water and Wastewater Engineering Company of Iran (Abfa) started the project in 2015. So far it has spent $200 million borrowed from the National Development Fund of Iran, the country's sovereign wealth fund.”

According to the official, 600 mcm of water will be diverted annually from the river to the dam and then transferred to the lake through the tunnel and canal.



Water Rights

Regarding international water rights, he said 50% of Zab waters belongs to Iran. The Tigris River Basin has several sub-basins shared by Iran, Iraq and Turkey. The main shared tributaries are the Great Zab, an approximately 400-kilometer-long river flowing through Turkey and Iraq, and the Little Zab which originates in Iran and joins the Tigris in Iraq’s Kurdistan region.

Referring to other plans, he said completion of the second phase of a wastewater treatment plant in Tabriz, East Azarbaijan Province, will help supply 125 million cubic meters of water to the lake a year.

“The plant has made 80% progress and will be used by one million people.” An undertaking of Abfa launched in 2016, the firm has spent close to 2,000 billion rials ($10 million), which also was borrowed from the NDF, he said.

Currently, seven wastewater processing units are in varying stages of construction in the province and after completion will significantly raise processing capacity, Jafari said.

According to Masoud Tajrishi, the Urmia Lake Restoration Project administrator and director of planning, the size of the lake had dwindled to less than 1,780 square kilometers in 2014 and ULPR helped raise it to 3,000 km2.

“The surface area of Iran’s largest inland body of water (Lake Urmia) has increased 68% over the past 5 years.”

Without the restoration plan, the lake would be a dead lake and salt storms would seriously endanger the livelihood of 6.5 million people over a 120-kilometer radius.

Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, Urmia Lake is a closed water body fed through 21 permanent and 39 seasonal rivers. 


Urmia lake Dams water levels