Treated Wastewater to Help Revive Urmia Lake

Treated Wastewater to Help Revive Urmia LakeTreated Wastewater to Help Revive Urmia Lake

Treated wastewater from the city of Tabriz in East Azarbaijan Province will be used to help restoration efforts underway at the embattled Urmia Lake.

Based on plans, a pipeline, which is slated to become operational within three years, will direct Tabriz’s treated urban wastewater into the lake.

Less than 20 years ago, the lake was Iran’s largest inland body of water.

The move is in line with the guidelines of Urmia Lake Restoration Project that has tasked the towns and cities in the vicinity of Lake Urmia’s basin to treat their wastewater and direct it toward the lake via pipelines, YJC reported.

Speaking at the opening ceremony of the second phase of Tabriz’s urban wastewater treatment unit, Energy Minister Hamid Chitchian said the treated wastewater will be transferred as long as it is needed for the restoration of Lake Urmia.  

“The current recession of water is the result of depriving the lake of its water rights for years,” he said.   

Many restorative measures have been taken so far to revive the desiccating lake, such as reducing agricultural water consumption and diverting water from rivers to the lake, with some having produced favorable results, but it still has a long way to go before it can be restored to an ideal level.

  More Measures Needed

Massoumeh Ebtekar, the head of the Department of Environment, had earlier said the level of water in the lake has increased by 56 centimeters in the current water year (started September 2015) as compared to a year before.

One of the most prominent measures taken by the ULRP was the merger of Zarrinehroud and Siminehroud rivers, whose flow was then directed toward the lake. Shortly afterward, the reservoir of Boukan Dam was opened, feeding the lake with about 70 cubic meters of water every second.

But experts are of the opinion that other measures, such as overhauling farming practices, using modern irrigation systems, practicing judicious water consumption and upholding the lake’s water rights are necessary to ensure that the restoration efforts will have a lasting impact.

The government has banned all agricultural development projects in the immediate vicinity of the lake and is preparing funds to purchase 40% of the water rights of farmers around the lake in West Azarbaijan over five years, and has earmarked $60 million for the scheme.

Urmia Lake currently covers 3,000 kilometers, holding 3 billion cubic meters of water. To return to an ideal state, the lake needs to be fed 13 billion cubic meters of water, which is a rather difficult and time-consuming task requiring large funds.

According to Ebtekar, 480 hectares of lands surrounding the lake have so far been covered in mulch to help limit Urmia Lake’s contribution to sand and dust storms. Officials intend to mulch around 20,000 hectares of sandy terrain around the lake.

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

Urmia Lake’s water level is expected to drop in the summer, as meteorologists predict a summer weather warmer by 0.5 to 1.5 degrees Celsius.