Agricultural Water Use in Lake Urmia Basin, Iran : An Approach to Adaptive Policies and Transition to Sustainable Irrigation Water Use
The Lake Urmia positioned in a closed basin in north-west Iran, positioned at altitude 1250 m above the sea level, and has been rapidly drying since 1990. The lake water level has declined to 1271.58 m in 2008 from the last highest record 1277.80 m in 1994. The lake water volume has fluctuated during the observation period and shows a drop from of 32 to 14.5 million cubic meters, while the lake salinity has increased from 205 to 338 g/l due to the evaporation and water inflow reduction. In the Lake Urmia basin, there has been an increase in public awareness of the possible environmental threat and the unpleasant socio-economical consequences on the region’s inhabitants.
The main aim of this study is to assess the current water use pattern in the Urmia Lake basin system with emphasis on the agricultural sub-system, and to propose adaptive measures and sustainable water management scenarios. The study shows that the main cause for these changes are the diversion of rivers and streams for agricultural irrigation; agriculture is a sector with one of the highest water demands, and frequent drought in early 2000s exacerbated the situation. In addition, a growing population and the increased development of agricultural land has led to an increase in unsustainable practices which have an unpredictable impact on the Lake Urmia ecosystem. This study investigates sustainable water use strategies for Lake Urmia basin, and considers economic and environmental factors, including the loss of valuable ecosystems that highlights social and ethical issues for the current and coming generations.
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