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Iran's Lake Urmia Continues Its Revival Amid Sustained Rains

A combination of prolonged drought, over-farming and dams saw the lake's surface shrink by an estimated 88 percent to just 700 square-kilometers. Photo taken in April 2018.

Iran’s Lake Urmia has been greatly replenished and revived as a result of sustained and at times heavy rains in the past two months, with its water surpassing 5 billion cubic meters or 1.32 trillion U.S. gallons.

An official in West Azerbaijan province told Tasnim news agency, the surface area of the lake has expanded to 3,180 square kilometers, or 1280 square miles.

Only in the past one month the lake has expanded its surface area by more than 200 square kilometers.

Lake Urmia, a salt lake, which once had a surface area of 5,000 square kilometers (almost 2,000sq miles) had shrank to just 700sq km in 2013. The reasons were both mismanagement by local and central governments and also a prolonged drought.

But the winter-spring of 2018-19 proved to be at least a temporary end to long years of drought. Rains and floods inundated many parts of Iran in March and April and healthy precipitation continues in May. The same floods brought devastation to 26 provinces in Iran, and death and destruction to neighboring Afghanistan. In Iran alone the estimated damage is $10 billion.

Situated in the mountains of northwest Iran, Lake Urmia is fed by 13 rivers and designated as a site of international importance under the UN Convention on Wetlands that was signed in the Iranian city of Ramsar in 1971.