Lake Urmia restoration success story: A natural trend or a planned remedy?

Zahir Nikraftar, Esmaeel Parizi, Seiyed Mossa Hosseini, Behzad Ataie-Ashtiani

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

20 Citations (Scopus)


Lake Urmia is the second-largest hypersaline lake in the world. There has been a drastic water level drop of 7.2 m from 1995 to 2016. Beginning in October 2013, the Lake Urmia Restoration Plan (LURP) launched a 10-year program. An increase in water level and a relative improvement in Lake Urmia condition has been observed since 2017. It is an undecided and controversial issue whether the recent positive trend of Lake Urmia has been due to the LURP activities or it is a natural contribution of climate factors variations. To shed some light on this issue, we examine three other lakes, adjacent to the Lake Urmia basin, with similar rainfall variability to investigate their status during the same period. Van (Turkey), Mosul, and Tharthar (both in Iraq), are evaluated as well as Lake Urmia. Three decades of remotely sensed data including precipitation (P), water level (WL), and lake extent (A) were considered for the mentioned lakes. A significant correlation was observed between standardized WL-P, and A-P over the long-term period, especially for the recent three years (R2 = 0.63–0.87). We show that the cumulative precipitation in the antecedent months played a major role in the improvement of these lakes' situation but with different time lags (up to 6 months for Van and Mosul lakes and up to 36 months for Lake Urmia and Tharthar lake). These findings could inform the planners of LURP to adopt strategies for achieving a sustainable state of Lake Urmia based on a more realistic outlook.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)955-969
Number of pages15
JournalJournal of Great Lakes Research
Issue number4
Early online date2 Apr 2021
Publication statusPublished - Aug 2021
Externally publishedYes


  • Climate factors variation
  • Lake Urmia Restoration Plan
  • Lake water storage
  • Remote sensing data


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