Some 32 percent of the projected water right for Lake Urmia has been provided over the past water year (September 2020 – September 2021), an inflow of 1.1 billion cubic meters of water.
There is currently 2.5 billion cubic meters of water in the lake, Mehran Nazari, head of West Azarbaijan province’s department of environment, said, adding that drought and water withdrawal for other purposes have caused the water right not to be fully granted, although there has been a lot of correspondence in this regard.
In recent days, rainfall has increased the water flow in the Lake, so that the water level is estimated at 1270.60 cm and 65 cm lower than the recorded level for the same period last year, he explained.
“We are against dam construction without environmental assessment, as it is one of the major threats to the lake,” Nazari noted.
Lake Urmia shrinks
Lake Urmia level has decreased by about 61 cm compared to last [Iranian calendar] year (March 2020-March 2021), Nazari said on October 16.
The surface area of Lake Urmia has been reduced to 1,835 square kilometers. In other words, 1423 square kilometers of the Lake’s surface has been reduced, losing 2 billion cubic meters of water, he added.
He went on to say that this environmental problem has increased the risk of salt dust storms in the region, which can have adverse effects on human communities and the lakeshore.
Shared between West Azarbaijan and East Azarbaijan provinces in northwestern Iran, Lake Urmia, was once the largest salt-water lake in West Asia. It was home to many migratory and indigenous animals including flamingos, pelicans, egrets, and ducks, and attracted hundreds of tourists every year who had bathed in the water to take advantage of the therapeutic properties of the lake.
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 surface area of 5,000 square kilometers in 1997 shrunk to one-tenth of that to 500 square kilometers in 2013.
Lake’s surface area reached up to 2,917 square kilometers, indicating 1,582 square kilometers increase in comparison to 2013 when the Lake Urmia Restoration Program began.
The level of Lake Urmia has reached 1,271 meters, which indicates an increase of over 1.39 meters compared to the lowest volume recorded. However, it still needs 9.5 billion cubic meters of water to reach its ecological level.
The above normal levels of rain came to help conservation measures to preserve Lake Urmia, but, this year, the drought and low rainfall are threatening the lake again.