Revered by ethnic Azeris as the turquoise solitaire of Azerbaijan, Lake Urmia was second only to the Caspian Sea as the largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, a haven for birds and bathers. Since the early 1970s nature and humanity have chipped away at this gem tucked in northwestern Iran, reducing its size by about 80 percent over the past 30 years. The flamingos that feasted on brine shrimp in this UNESCO biosphere reserve are mostly gone. So are the pelicans, the egrets, and the ducks. Even the tourists who flocked to Lake Urmia for therapeutic baths in its warm, hypersaline waters are staying away.
What remain are piers that lead nowhere, the rusting carcasses of ships half-buried in the silt, and white, barren landscapes of exposed salt flats. Winds that whip across the lake bed blow salt dust to farm fields, slowly rendering the soil infertile. Noxious, salt-tinged dust storms inflame the eyes, skin, and lungs of people as far away as Tabriz, a city of more than 1.5 million about 60 miles away. And in recent years Urmias alluring turquoise waters were stained blood-red from algae and bacteria that flourish in these waters, which are eight times as salty as the ocean, and then turn color when sunlight penetrates the shallows.
Whats happened to this cherished lake? Climate change has intensified droughts and elevated hot summer temperatures that speed up evaporation, scientists say. Yet thats only part of the story: Engineers and water experts point out that the lake in this semiarid region is suffering from thousands of illegal wells and a proliferation of dams and irrigation projects that are diverting water from tributary rivers to grow apples, wheat, and sunflowers. The experts have called on Irans government to change course before Urmia falls victim to the Aral Sea syndrome, the overexploitation of water that doomed its sister inland sea in Central Asia.
The voice of science seems to have reached Tehran. Iranian President Hassan Rouhani has pledged to spend five billion dollars to revive Urmia by releasing more water from dams, improving the efficiency of irrigation systems, and switching to less thirsty crops. Yet some promised funding appears to have dried up too, thwarting progress and bringing petitions to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, to renew efforts or to seek international assistance. The United Nations Development Programme is working with farmers on more sustainable practices to save water. Although U.S.-Iran relations have been strained for decades, the countries have permitted scientific exchanges to brainstorm on how to replenish the diminishing waters of Lake Urmia and Utahs Great Salt Lakewhich are close in size and configuration.
At a meeting in 2016 sponsored by the National Academies of Sciences, Engineering, and Medicine in Irvine, California, U.S. and Iranian scientists shared strikingly similar stories about how Iran and the western United States have struggled with multiyear droughts and the demands of their growing populations and agriculture. Its easy for public officials to shy away from responsibility by blaming a changing climate or the whims of weather. University of California, Irvine, engineering professor Amir AghaKouchak, who was born and educated in Iran before immigrating to California, said both regions have suffered extensive droughts in the past. The difference comes when human demands exceed available, renewable water. If the same drought occurs in the future, he said, it will have even more severe impacts.
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Lake Urmia is the name of a lake in northwestern Iran. According to the divisions of Iran, this lake is located between the two provinces of West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan Province. The area of this lake in 1998 was about six thousand square kilometers. This lake is the 25th largest lake in the world in terms of area. Lake Urmia is the largest inland lake in Iran. Also, the largest saltwater lake in the Middle East, and the sixth largest saltwater lake in the world. The water of this lake is very salty. It is also a UNESCO World Heritage Site.
The name of this lake today is Lake Urmia. It is famous because of the city of Urmia. The capital of West Azerbaijan province. In Turkish it is called Ormo Gulu. In ancient Persian, this lake is called Chichest, which means radiant.
In the northwest of our country, there is a lake. It is located between the two provinces of West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan Province. This lake was also famous as the largest inland lake in Iran. It was also the second largest saltwater lake in the world before the drought. Since the mid-1980s, the lake has begun to dry up, losing about 88 percent of its area. Many of you have seen pictures of Lake Urmia in red and orange. This color change occurs due to the activity of microscopic organisms inside the lake. These organisms show a more colorful presence with decreasing lake water. Also, increasing salt concentration. To the extent that they have a significant effect on the color of water.
Due to the existence of unique plant and animal species, the name of Lake Urmia iran was registered in the list of national parks of Iran. The area of this national park was estimated at 462,600 hectares. It was also in the World Heritage List as a biosphere reserve. Biosphere reserves are international natural-bio-protected areas. This area have been formed to prevent irreversible changes and unsustainable exploitation of natural resources. For while requiring the exploitation of nature. And have become one of the most important divisions in the protection of the world.
The title Blue Jewel of Azerbaijan is for showing Lake Urmia and the spectacular effects of the only inland reservoir and its lagoons. These natural attractions have attracted many tourists to visit the area over the years. However, these days, with the outbreak of coronary heart disease, the number of tourists in it has decreased. But again, with the control of this disease, the process of visiting this lake has increased. Now the situation of Lake Urmia has been promising. These days, the revival of the waves in the lake, the beaches and the bridge have made it a place for summer tourists to stop and have fun. And you can smell the good smell of this beautiful ecosystem.
The best seasons to visit the lake are spring and summer. In spring and summer, the temperate climate heats up the travel market to Urmia lake. Also, in autumn and winter, as the weather cools, the air temperature drops significantly in the region. You can join our team, Iran Destination. And get more acquainted with this beautiful lake Iran. Iran travel agency, Iran Destination, will organize your trip to Iran. You can offer your tailor-made trip to Iran or visit our programs on the Iran tour page. You can contact to our Iranian travel agency, our agents are online to answer all your questions.
In the past, one of the interesting pastimes of Lake Urmia was boating and visiting its various islands. But with the drought in the lake, the fun gradually faded. But due to the water intake of the lake in recent years, this fun has revived and you can take a boat and discover the corner of this beautiful lake. Lake Urmia embraces 102 small and large islands. Each islands which has different characteristics. Some are relatively large and some are very small.
On the west shore of the lake, there is an area called Kazem Dashi. This place was famous as a peninsula before the lake dried up. But as the water receded, the lake became part of the shore and only part of it was submerged. During the growing season of wild anemones, this area becomes its most spectacular form. Also, it becomes the subject of photography for artists.
The water properties of Lake Urmia have made its mud suitable for the treatment of various rheumatic, skin and other diseases. The high concentration of salt in the lake also makes floating on the water bring relaxation to the person. Other therapeutic properties of Lake Urmia salt include the treatment of respiratory diseases. For example, as asthma and bronchitis and various types of sinusitis. Take advantage of the extraordinary healing properties of this lake. Of course, to use these properties. Do not do dangerous things and do not go too far from the shore of the lake.
The Urmia Lake Crossing Bridge is on Lake Urmia. It is part of the Shahid Kalantari Highway. So, the bridge connects the two provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan in northwestern Iran. This bridge is 1709 meters long. So, 1276 meters has been built inside Urmia lake. It is about 385 meters on both sides of the connecting stairs. By exploiting this route, the distance of 260 km between the two cities will be reduced by half. This bridge plays an important role in the development of tourism. Also, cultural and trade exchanges between the two provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan.
My name is Sarvin Niroomand. Working at Iran Destination travel agency. I love travelling all over the world. I have seen so many countries such as Russia, Turkey, Dubai, Thailand and etc. And also there are many beautiful places in my country that i like to see in future.
Images from northwest Iran in recent years have told a grim environmental story: of a vast lake in retreat, of a beached ship and piers that jut out onto arid salt flats. But against the odds, one of the worlds largest salt lakes is now coming back to life, in a rare piece of good news from Iran.
A combination of man-made efforts and higher rainfall in recent years is slowly, but surely reviving what was once the second largest saltwater lake in the world, says Claudio Providas, Resident Representative in Iran for the United Nations Development Program (UNDP), which is involved in a project to save the lake.
Urmia had been laid low by a combination of drought, an ever-increasing number of dams (Iran has been an enthusiastic builder of them for more than 60 years) and the overuse of underground water sources and rivers by local farmers. The lake began retreating in the mid-2000s and by 2014 had shrunk to a fraction of its former size, with reports of it holding just 500 million cubic metres of water, compared to 30 billion cubic metres when it had been full.
Satellite images showed a body of water that had mostly receded to a shallow basin to the north of a bridge which had once bisected the lake, leaving the southern portion largely barren. Iran was facing an environmental disaster similar to what has happened to the Aral Sea in Central Asia. An estimated 6 billion tons of salt and dust threatened to blow around the surrounding area, devastating farmland and posing a health risk to the local population.
The programme to save the lake began in 2013. At the time, Urmias surface covered just 500 square km, a fraction of the 5,000 km2 it had been at its height. By 2017, it had expanded to 2,300 km2 and, according to the latest information from the Lake Urmia monitoring station, it was at 3,134 km2 last month.
The lakes surface now lies 1,271.75 meters above sea-level, having risen by 0.3m over the past year and 1.7m since 2014. Iranian media agencies have been celebrating the progress with numerous reports in recent weeks. The authorities are understandably keen to advetise the gains that have been made, not least because so much else in the country has been going wrong in recent years, from protest movements brutally supressed to a stumbling economy hit hard by sanctions, tumbling oil prices and one of the worlds worst outbreaks of Covid-19.
There is still a long way to go for the lake though. The target is to reach a water level of just over 1,274m, something which still requires substantial efforts, says Providas. But things are at least heading in the right direction. Regarding the biodiversity of the lake, there are signs of hope, adds Providas. He says that brine shrimp, which had disappeared from the lakes ecosystem due to high salinity, are returning. The number of water birds such as flamingos has also increased from 4,000 during the worst period to 60,000 last year.
An Iranian woman in the city of Urmia on April 5, 2018. With the gradual drying up of Lake Urmia and ... [+] the lack of tourists, the Iranian city fears for its future (Photo: Farshid-Motahari Bina/picture alliance via Getty Images)
Rescuing the lake has been an international effort. Iranian government ministries and the Urmia Lake Restoration Program have been supported by the UNDP. Local communities have also been heavily involved and there has been almost $7 million in financial support from the Japanese government. Local press reports suggest more than $1 billion has been spent on the project in total.
At one point there was talk of trying to bring in other international backers in 2018, officials were said by one local news agency to be in talks with several foreign investors regarding the lake, but no other backing has been announced.
International sanctions in recent years led by the U.S. have undoubtedly made things harder. Certainly, the existence of sanctions is a serious challenge for our projects, especially international projects, as it makes it difficult to mobilize international resources and even to promote international experience and knowledge exchanges, says Providas.
A critical element to the project has involved persuading farmers to change their practices. To date there has been a 35% reduction in water use by local farms and a 40% reduction in the use of traditional pesticides. In addition, local rivers which feed the lake have been dredged to remove the silt which was blocking them and more water has been released from nearby dams. Providas also notes that favorable climate conditions have also accelerated the restoration process of the lake. West Azerbaijan province which one half of the lake is in has seen 20% more rain over the past year than the long-term average; last year it was 71% higher than the norm.
The improving environment is helping new industries to take root, which could be a key factor in ensuring the progress made in recent years isnt lost in the future. We have observed new economic activities such as ecotourism and bird watching [and] territorial branding for local products," says Providas. Having a healthy lake at the centre of the socio-economic development plans is the ultimate goal."
In the summer of 2016, the water of Irans Lake Urmia dramatically changed color from green to red. It was not a new phenomenon, but it has become more frequent in recent years, and is not the only disturbing trend that the lake is experiencing.
Lake Urmia is located between East and West Azerbaijan Provinces in northwest Iran and is home to 120 islands. Though it was once the largest lake in the Middle East and the sixth-largest salt water lake in the world, at 5,000 square kilometers, it is estimated that the lakes surface area has shrunk by 90% since the 1970s, much of that within the last two decades.
This is mostly due to human activity, with dams and illegal wells impeding the flow of water from the 60 surrounding rivers and streams that feed the lake. These and other developmentshave caused the salinity of the water to rise significantly, which affects wildlife of all sizes. Migratory birds like flamingos, pelicans, ducks, and egrets no longer frequent the lake, which cannot sustain fish anymore. Even the lakes native species of brine shrimp, Artemia, which can survive at very high salinity levels, are rumored to have gone extinct.
The organisms that are thriving are the reason the water turns red. The algae that grows in the lake, Dunaliella salina, would normally appear green, but with less water in the lake and more exposure to sunlight, the algae produces carotenoids in its cells to absorb the excess light, which makes it appear red. It is also thought that a salt-loving bacteria called Halobacteriaceae, which has a red pigment to absorb sunlight for energy, is involved.
The lake, named following the Iranian Revolution forthe provincial capital city of Urmia, which means puddle of water, shows signs of recovery. The Iranian government along with international organizations like UNESCO and WHO have made efforts to rein in illegal wells and improve the irrigation techniques of surrounding farms. Seasonal rains in the later months of the year provide some relief to the lake, but are not a permanent solution.
Lake Urmia or Orumiyeh Lake on the border of East and West Azerbaijan Provinces of Iran, is Irans largest inland water body (5,200 km2) and a UNESCO biosphere reserve. It was once the worlds 2nd largest hypersaline lake, before the dramatic shrinkage and drop in Lake Urmia water levels due to climatic and human influences. Counting as one of the most popular Urmia attractions, Lake Urmia is most conveniently reachable from city of Urmia, in West Azerbaijan.
After the generous rainfalls of March 2019, Orumiyeh Lake was miraculously revived, making it well worth to have an account of Lake Urmia before and after its close-to-death depletion and grand revival.
At its vastest, Lake Urmia measured 5,200 km2, at a length of 140 km, a width of 55 km, and a maximum depth of 16 m. However, in recent years Orumiyeh Lake shrunk to a catastrophic 10 percent of its original size, with 700 km2 in 2013, due to prolonged drought and water mismanagement by authorities. Fortunately, the heavy rainfalls of early 2019 and March 2019 brought the lake back to life.
Ecological Importance of Orumiyeh Lake : Lake Urmia is internationally registered as a protected area as a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve and a Ramsar site (since 1975). Orumiyeh Lake is also protected as anational parkby theIranian Department of Environment.
Boasting a remarkable biodiversity, Orumiyeh Lake hosts up to 226 species of birds, 27 species of amphibians and reptiles and 24 species of mammals (47 fossils have been recorded in the area), 62 species of archaebacteria and bacteria, 42 species of microfungi, 20 species of phytoplankton, 311 species of plants, etc.
The recent dry spells resulted in the increased salinity of the lake, making it no more a habitat of fish species, but the Artemia, a food source of flamingos. At its driest, there were speculations of this species going extinct too.
Some accounts pointed the lake used to host 100,000 to 200,000 birds in winter every year before its drastic shrinkage. However, hopes are high that the revival of the lake will reverse the decline in recent years.
Lake Urmia Before and After and Lake Urmia Water Level : Orumiyeh Lake used to measure 5,200 km2, however, in recent years Orumiyeh Lake shrunk to a catastrophic 10 percent of its original size, with 700 km2 in 2013. Water volume of the lake dropped from 30 billion m2 in 1997 to 2.5 billion m2 in 2017.
In 2014, The Iranian government, during President Rouhanis Administration, allocated hefty budgets (over 500 million dollars) for the first year of revival program with international aid. However, the restoration program could not affect significant improvements to Lake Urmias tenuous condition. Large budgets have annually been assigned to improve the agricultural and water management infrastructures around the region, ever since.
Reasons of the devastative shrinkage of the lake are cited as long drought periods and most importantly, irresponsible drilling of 40,000 wells on the lakes basins, construction of numerous dams on the inflowing rivers, in previous administrations mainly for agricultural purposes, and erecting a bridge across the lake to shorten traveling distance between Tabriz and Oroumiyeh cities aggravated the depletion of the lake.
Fortunately, rainfalls since Fall 2018 intensifying in March 2019, resurrected the lake to a surface area of 3,000 km2 and Orumiyeh Lake water level increasing by 59 centimeters compared to 2013, according to the governor (according to 13 April 2019 updates).
Attractions of Orumiyeh Lake : Lake Urmia offers its visitors the chance to entertain themselves with the inherent splendor of its nature. When Visiting Orumiyeh Lake, one can enjoy the following activities and landscapes:
History of Lake Urmia : Etymologically, the origin of Lake Urmias name can be of Urartian, or derived from Indu-Iranian Urmya meaning wavy. Locally, the lake is referred to in Persian as Daryche-ye Orumiyeh . Its Old Persian name was Chichast, meaning glittering refereeing to the glittering nature of salt crystals covering the lake.
Lake Urmia region hides the archaeological treasures of the Neolithic Era and proof of settlement since 7,000 BC. Teppe Hasanlu, , Yanik Teppe and Haji Firouz Teppe are among the famous ancient settlements in the vicinity of Orumiyeh Lake. The lake was the center of the ancient Mannaean Kingdom. One of the early mentions of Lake Urmia is from Assyrian records of the 9th century BC (Shalmaneser III (858824 BC).
We live in Iran; and just like you, we are interested in travelling. We, the same as you and the rest of the world, had heard and read about theglory of Iranfrom our grandfathers, in the old books, and in history classes.
Many of the world's saline lakes are shrinking at alarming rates, reducing waterbird habitat and economic benefits while threatening human health. Saline lakes are long-term basin-wide integrators of climatic conditions that shrink and grow with natural climatic variation. In contrast, water withdrawals for human use exert a sustained reduction in lake inflows and levels. Quantifying the relative contributions of natural variability and human impacts to lake inflows is needed to preserve these lakes. With a credible water balance, causes of lake decline from water diversions or climate variability can be identified and the inflow needed to maintain lake health can be defined. Without a water balance, natural variability can be an excuse for inaction. Here we describe the decline of several of the world's large saline lakes and use a water balance for Great Salt Lake (USA) to demonstrate that consumptive water use rather than long-term climate change has greatly reduced its size. The inflow needed to maintain bird habitat, support lake-related industries and prevent dust storms that threaten human health and agriculture can be identified and provides the information to evaluate the difficult tradeoffs between direct benefits of consumptive water use and ecosystem services provided by saline lakes.
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Discussions with D.G. Tarboton and J.C. Schmidt facilitated our analysis and helped improve the manuscript. Contributions by S.E.N. were supported by the National Science Foundation cooperative agreement EPSCoR IIA-1208732. Any opinions, findings, and conclusions or recommendations expressed in this material are those of the authors and do not necessarily reflect the views of the National Science Foundation. Contributions by R.J.D. were partially supported by a US Bureau of Reclamation, WaterSmart Grant no. R13AC80039.