Zab River to Feed Lake Urmia by 2019

Zab River to Feed Lake Urmia by 2019Zab River to Feed Lake Urmia by 2019

The government is mulling plans to supply water from Zab River along the western borders to the disappearing Lake Urmia in northwest as part of measures to help restore the once largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, secretary of the Urmia Lake Restoration Program, a government taskforce, said on Friday.

"The taskforce and the Ministry of Agricultural Jihad have reached an agreement to redistribute Zab River water to Lake Urmia by 2019," Issa Kalantari was quoted as saying by ISNA.

Referring to international water rights, Kalantari said 50% of Zab waters belong to Iran and "we can use it however we want".

The taskforce is pursuing a short-term plan to maintain the lake's existing water level, while a second plan is being worked out to prevent the lake's water from draining in the long run.

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 Tigris in the Kurdistan region of Iraq.

"A similar plan calls for supplying the Caspian Sea water to Lake Urmia and a conduit is being built to do so," Kalantari said, without giving details.

Concurrently, a project is under development to connect the rivers of Mahabad, Godar and Zarrinehroud to Siminehroud, which will be diverted toward Lake Urmia.

Digging wells, repurposing lands into farms and buying 40% of farmers’ water rights are among other measures lined up by the restoration program.

Once twice as large as Luxembourg, Lake Urmia has shrunk substantially. According to published reports, it was sliced in half in 2008 and its surface area has dwindled to around 10% of its average size over the course of five decades.

The lake has dried up drastically due to a variety of factors, including the construction of a 15-kilometer causeway to shorten the travel time between Urmia and Tabriz cities as well as construction of several dams that have choked off a major supply of water flowing from the mountains that tower on either side of the lake.