Iran: Water Transfer Project to Lake Urmia Almost Complete

The project to transfer water from the Kanisib Dam to Lake Urmia is completed by 97 percent, aiming to flow about 600 million cubic meters of water into the lake annually, IRNA reported on Monday.

Lake Urmia, located in the northwest of Iran, was once the most extensive permanent hypersaline lake in the world. Unsustainable water management in response to increasing demand together with climatic extremes has given rise to the lake’s depletion during the last two decades. The lake’s restoration program was established in 2013 and aims to restore the lake within a 10-year program.

The Kanisib tunnel, stretching to 35 km, is the most important structure for transferring water to Lake Urmia to prevent it from drying out, which is currently in the final stages of construction, Tajrishi, deputy head of the Department of Environment (DOE) said.

The project has been proposed by the government. So far, a budget of 28 trillion rials (nearly $666 million at the official rate of 42,000 rials) has been spent on it, he noted.

The water transfer tunnel cause Lake Urmia to reach its ecological level over the next seven years, which is 1274.1 meters with 15 billion cubic meters of water and 4,300 square kilometers surface, he added.

Tajrishi went on to say that currently, 150 million cubic meters of water is stored behind this dam, which is ready to be transferred to Lake Urmia, expressing hope that the project will be fully operational by the end of September.

Farhad Sarkhosh, head of the Lake Urmia Restoration Program’s office in West Azarbaijan province said that there is another water transfer project from West Azarbaijan, which will also be exploited by the end of this year (March 21, 2022).

With the full utilization of water transfer projects, nearly 1.1 million cubic meters of water will enter Lake Urmia annually, he added.

Over 640 million cubic meters of water will release to the Lake annually from the south of West Azerbaijan, 300 million cubic meters from all wastewater treatment plants in neighboring provinces, and 180 million cubic meters from the Silveh Dam, he explained.

Lake Urmia’s surface increased by over 1500 km²

Lake Urmia’s surface area has reached up to 2,917 square kilometers, indicating 1,582 square kilometers increase in comparison to 2013 when the Lake Urmia Restoration Program began.

The level of Lake Urmia has reached 1,271 meters, which indicates an increase of over 1.39 meters compared to the lowest volume recorded, Sarkhosh said.

The volume of water also raised by 3.81 billion cubic meters, which has increased more than 5 times compared to the Iranian calendar year 1394 (March 2015-March 2016) and before the Lake Urmia Restoration Program started, he highlighted.

Achieving sustainable rehabilitation requires countless efforts, such as preventing the lake’s water flow from entering the agricultural land. Lake Urmia’s condition stabilized with a positive trend due to heavy rainfall, but there is a fear that this trend will be reversed by drought in the coming years.

The above normal levels of rain came to help conservation measures to preserve Lake Urmia, however, it still needs 9.5 billion cubic meters of water to reach its ecological level.

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