Urmia Lake Shrinks Further

The latest data indicate a decline in Urmia Lake's area which is blamed on the lack of precipitation in its catchment area
Urmia's water level has been stabilized and the next target is to restore its ecological level. Urmia's water level has been stabilized and the next target is to restore its ecological level.
Recent showers have miraculously led to a 2.7% rise in the average precipitation of Urmia Lake catchment area

The imperiled Urmia Lake in northwest Iran shrunk by 248 square kilometers over the past year, the latest data from West Azarbaijan Regional Water Authority announced.

On Feb. 13, the lake covered 1,856 sq. km of waterbed down from 2,104 sq. km on the same date of last year. 

According to Farhad Sarkhosh, the head of Urmia Lake Restoration Project, the lake's water level also fell by 21 cm during the period from 1,270.59 to 1,270.38 meters, IRNA reported. 

The shrinkage has been largely attributed to the noticeable decline in precipitation in the current Iranian year (started March 21, 2017). 

"Urmia is a closed water body fed through 21 permanent and 39 seasonal rivers," he said. 

According to a comprehensive report released by Iran Water Resources Management, the Urmia Lake catchment area received 120 mm of precipitation from the beginning of the current water year (Sept. 23, 2017) up until Feb. 12, which showed a 7.3% decline compared with the same period of last year with 129.7 mm.

However, the area is experiencing showers and Sarkhosh hoped the rainfall would continue and make up for the deficit. 

On Tuesday, the precipitation in the catchment area reached 133.7 mm that registered a 3.5-mm increase from the same date of last year. In other words, the showers led to a 2.7% rise compared with the last water year following the rainfall on a single day. 

No data has been released yet on whether this has alleviated the lake's condition. 

Urmia has depleted 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.

Many restorative measures have been taken so far to revive the depleting lake, such as reducing agricultural water consumption and diverting water from rivers to the lake, some of which have produced favorable results.

In September 2016, the first phase of its restoration was complete and its water level stabilized. Subsequent efforts are focused on restoring its ecological level. 

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 restoration efforts have a lasting impact.

Less than 20 years ago, Urmia Lake, located between East and West Azarbaijan provinces, was Iran’s largest inland body of water.

Today, the lake contains only 5% of the amount of water it did then. 

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