People, Environment

Lake Urmia Inflow on Target

Lake Urmia Inflow on TargetLake Urmia Inflow on Target

About 80 million cubic meters of water will flow into Lake Urmia during the Iranian month of Esfand (February 20 – March 19), bringing the lake’s total inflow during the fourth quarter of the current Iranian year to 200 million cubic meters.

“During the months of Dey and Bahman (December 22 – February 19), around 120 million cubic meters were diverted to the imperiled lake,” ISNA quoted Masoud Tajrishi, director of the Planning and Development Office at the Urmia Lake Restoration Program, as saying.

The ULRP had planned for the lake to receive 200 million cubic meter of water during the final quarter of the year.

Formed in 2013 shortly after President Hassan Rouhani took office, the ULRP devised a long-term plan to help revive the lake. The group’s three-year plan aims to stabilize the lake’s water level, which has been constantly declining for years.

“The lake’s water level saw an average annual decline of 40 centimeters during the 20 years leading up to 2013. However, the lake has lost only 10 centimeters of its water level in each of the past two years,” Tajrishi said.

He added that the increase in the temperature during the past few days helped the process of reviving the lake by filling it with meltwater (water derived from the melting ice and snow).

“However, the upcoming summer is expected to be about 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than normal, which will dry the northern section of the lake, leaving only small patches of water,” he noted.

During the current Iranian year, major steps were taken to restore the lake, which only contains 5% of the water it held only 20 years ago.

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 after, the reservoir of Boukan Dam was opened, feeding the lake with about 70 cubic meters of water every second.

Furthermore, 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.

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 water supply from the mountains towering either side of the lake.