Financial Tribune- The level of Urmia Lake is currently 20 centimeters lower than the target set for the end of the water year (Sept. 22), an official involved in Urmia Lake Restoration Program said.
Ali Haji-Moradi, policymaking director at ULRP’s Incorporation and Planning Office, said that based on plans, the level should have been 40 cm higher than three years ago (Sept. 22, 2014) , ISNA reported.
“The lake’s water level this September was 20 cm lower than in the same period of last year, which is an alarming figure as fluctuating trends were projected to be upward,” he said.
Khalil Saei, who heads restoration efforts in East Azarbaijan Province, cited a 22-cm decline in the level during the period, as well as a significant decline in the lake’s area.
“At present, the area of the lake stands at 1,783 square kilometers, which shows a 264-sq.km. decline, down from 2,047 sq.km. during the same period of last year,” he said.
The decline is attributed to the incomplete implementation of rescue plans, along with exceptionally low precipitation.
“The average rainfall has declined by 36% in the past water year alone compared to the year before,” Saie said.
Haji-Moradi explained that the rise and fall in Urmia’s volume of water during winter and summer have always been influenced by natural phenomena, but figures calculated by comparing the lake’s level on each day with the previous year’s are sensitive and show important changes.
Despite the worrying trend this year, the plan’s progress has been positive.
“Between 2009 and 2013, the lake’s level declined by 130 cm while average precipitation in Urmia’s catchment area stood at 330 mm. This year, however, despite lower average rainfall (270 mm) over a four-year period (2013-17), the level has only declined by 10 cm,” Haji-Moradi said.
The plan to transfer water from Kani Sib River to Urmia through a 36-km tunnel is also underway and will be completed by March 2020. Once completed, the tunnel will direct 650 million cubic meters of water annually toward the lake. The project is expected to help prevent the lake’s level from ddeclining, especially during the warm seasons.
Located between the provinces of East and West Azarbaijan, Urmia Lake has been facing serious drought for years. The ULRP was set out in 2013 to stabilize the lake’s water level (Phase 1) and restore its water level to what it was more than a decade ago (Phase 2). The first phase was completed last September and the second phase started shortly after, with the initial goal of increasing the water level by 40 centimeters per year. The target is to restore the ecological level (1,274 meters above sea level) by 2023.