People, Environment

Lake Urmia Water Level Stable

Lake Urmia Water Level StableLake Urmia Water Level Stable

The rising water level of Lake Urmia is a sign that the lake has stabilized, raising hopes for the its long-awaited recovery, according to director of the Department of Environment office in East Azarbaijan Province, Hamid Qasemi.

“On March 29, when the latest measurements was taken, the lake’s water level registered at 1,270.70 meters, an eight-centimeter rise compared to the corresponding period of last year,” the official told the media on Friday, ISNA reported.

That is also a 67cm rise compared to the beginning of the current water year, which started on September 23, 2015.

Commending efforts to revive the lake, Qasemi said despite an 8% decrease in rainfall in the current water year compared to the previous year, the restoration efforts have not been hindered.

“In spite of the declining rainfall and warm climate, efforts to revive the lake have helped increase Lake Urmia’s water level,” he said.

The lake’s stable water level has once again turned it into a hotspot for migratory birds, especially flamingoes that have returned to the lake following years of absence.

In its prime, the lake would draw more than 40,000 flamingoes every year, the largest assembly of the migratory birds in the Middle East.

  Almost Empty

During last Iranian year (ended March 19), major steps were taken to restore the lake, which now barely contains 5% of the water it held less than 20 years ago.

One of the most prominent measures taken by the Urmia Lake Restoration Program 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 troubled lake, and is in the process of establishing funds to buy 40% of the water rights of farmers around the lake in West Azarbaijan over five years. So far it has earmarked $60 million for the scheme.

The lake has dried up drastically due to a variety of factors, namely construction of a 15km 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.

Lake Urmia’s water level is expected to drop in the summer, as meteorologists predict a summer season between 1 to 1.5 degrees Celsius warmer than normal.