EghtesadOnline: The water level of Urmia Lake is currently 1,271.16 meters, which is 60 centimeters lower than last year’s level, the head of Urmia Lake Catchment Area said.
“The Energy Ministry had said the lake would receive 650 million cubic meters of water from eight dams in West Azarbaijan Province between September 2020 and March 2021. However, so far, only 240 mcm of water have been pumped into the lake and the main reason is the decline in precipitation and severe drought in Iran,” ILNA also quoted Masoud Baqerzadeh Karimi as saying.
According to the official, the drought, which is unprecedented in the last 50 years in the country, has led to a 50% reduction in water inflow from dams into the lake that is Iran’s largest inland body of water.
The lake's water level is expected to drop further due to high temperatures forecast for this summer.
With forecasts saying that this summer, the temperature would be 1.8 degrees Celsius warmer than last year, decline in water levels due to evaporation would be normal.
Close to 1.6 billion cubic meters of water usually evaporates from the lake between June and September. Due to evaporation, the lake's water level is expected to fall by 50 centimeters.
Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, the lake is a closed water body fed through 21 permanent and 39 seasonal rivers.
It started to desiccate 10 years ago due to a variety of factors, including the construction of a 15-km causeway to shorten travel time between Urmia and Tabriz cities and construction of several dams that have choked off water supply from the mountains on both sides of the lake.
In 2013, a project called Urmia Lake Restoration Program started to stabilize the lake’s water level. About $1 billion have been spent so far to restore the lake.
Had it not been for the restoration plan, the lake would dry up and salt storms would seriously endanger the livelihood of more than 6.5 million people over a 120-kilometer radius.
“A total of 26 programs are planned for the rehabilitation of the lake, part of which belongs to the Energy Ministry. One of the measures is the transfer of water from Kanisib Dam, which is to transfer 44 million cubic meters of water to the lake, which project will be launched soon,” Karimi added.
“Another program is to transfer 600 million cubic meters of water from Zab River. The project has registered 93% progress and efforts are being made to complete it by the end of the current Iranian year [March 2021-22].”
The official said the project comprises the excavation of a 17-km canal and a 37-km tunnel.
“Tabriz and Urmia wastewater treatment plants are also to release water into the lake. The projects are more than 90% complete and over 100 million cubic meters of treated wastewater from both plants will enter the lake by the end of summer,” he said.
An estimated 60 million cubic meters of reclaimed wastewater enters Urmia Lake every year, part of which is from treatment plants in Naqadeh, Mahabad, Miandoab, Salmas and Boukan in the northwestern province.
The water level of the lake is to reach 1274.1 meters by 2027, which is 3 meters higher than the current level.
Once the second-largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, it attracted birds and bathers to bask in its turquoise waters in northwest Iran. But since the beginning of the 1970s, nearly three decades of drought and high water demand have shriveled the basin, shrinking it by a shocking 80%.
The lake supports unique biodiversity and its wetlands have been declared a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
Biosphere reserves are areas comprising terrestrial, marine and coastal ecosystems. Each reserve promotes solutions reconciling the conservation of biodiversity with its sustainable use.