Integrated Water Resources Management in Urmia Lake Basin, Iran Lake Urmia (5000 km2) is one of the most important and valuable aquatic ecosystems in Iran, and because of its unique natural features it has been declared a National Park, Ramsar site and UNESCO Biosphere Reserve.
The lake is surrounded by a number of internationally important freshwater wetlands, including further Ramsar sites. During the last two decades, pressures on the natural resources of the Lake Urmia Basin have grown as a result of non-sustainable human activities (agricultural intensification, water resources developments, construction of a causeway through the centre of the Lake etc.). These pressures have been exacerbated by a recent period of severe drought. This has severely degraded the ecosystem, such that its capacity to deliver social, economic and environmental benefits is under real threat. Indicators of the severity of the problem include: http://www.wri.ac.ir/urmia/english/intro.html • Shortages of irrigation water (low irrigation efficiency) • Rapidly falling groundwater tables in many of the agricultural plains • Saltwater intrusion from the lake, leading to the death of thousands of hectares of orchards • A 3.5-meter fall in lake level during the drought, exposing up to 7.3 km width of shoreline • Dramatic increase in salinity, leading to salt crystallization • A collapse in the ecological communities in the lake (Artemia Urmiana and flamingos) • The loss and severe degradation of natural wetland habitats surrounding the lake, including sites designated under the Ramsar Convention on Wetlands • Decline in the availability and / or quality of the natural resources, such as reeds, Artemia, water birds for hunting and bird watching, grazing lands, touristy values. The project "Integrated Water Resources Management for the Lake Urmia Basin" is comprised of three main modules. The main purpose of the study modules are; • to support a better water allocation between the main user sectors with a comprehensive analysis of the sustainable water budget and a water resources management tool in the basin, • to improve irrigation efficiency in order to reach a more sustainable and integrated natural resource system on sub-basin level that allows the co-existence of agricultural and environmental demands for water and, • to demonstrate the potential for more sustainable management of wetlands in the basin, based on six pilot site wetlands, and raising capacity for achieving sustainable wetland management among provincial agencies.
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