Skip to main content


Log in

Investigation Anthropogenic Impacts and Climate Factors on Drying up of Urmia Lake using Water Budget and Drought Analysis

  • Published:
Water Resources Management Aims and scope Submit manuscript


The water level of Urmia Lake, the largest inland lake in Iran with maximum water surface area of about 6000 km2, has been shrinking for the last two decades. Although a number of study have been performed to determine drought condition and coastline changes of Urmia Lake, there has not been a detailed study to distinguish anthropogenic effects from climate impacts on the drying of Urmia Lake. In this study, water budget of Urmia Lake and the intensity of drought in the basin were analyzed in the period from 1985 to 2010 and a new hypothesis is proposed to quantify anthropogenic and climate impacts in reducing the volume of Urmia Lake. The results of this study indicate that human impacts on the Lake and its basin are more important than climate factors. Though previous studies assumed that ground water output from Urmia Lake is negligible, the results of this study show the presence of significant groundwater seepage from Urmia Lake. Major changes in the variables that reduced the water level of Urmia Lake were observed since 1998. Anthropogenic impacts and climate factors have roughly 80% and 20% effects on the drying up of Urmia Lake, respectively. Hence, the first step to recover Urmia Lake could be the revision of management surface water, operation of dams and groundwater resources. The second step could be the review and classification of agricultural products grown in the region in terms of water consumption and teach local people the best practice methods for irrigation.

This is a preview of subscription content, log in via an institution to check access.

Access this article

Subscribe and save

Springer+ Basic
EUR 32.99 /Month
  • Get 10 units per month
  • Download Article/Chapter or Ebook
  • 1 Unit = 1 Article or 1 Chapter
  • Cancel anytime
Subscribe now

Buy Now

Price excludes VAT (USA)
Tax calculation will be finalised during checkout.

Instant access to the full article PDF.

Fig. 1
Fig. 2
Fig. 3
Fig. 4

Similar content being viewed by others


  • Abbaspour M, Javid AH, Mirbagheri SA, Givi FA, Moghimi P (2012) Investigation of lake drying attributed to climate change. Int J Environ Sci Technol, ISSN: 1735-1472, EISSN: 1735-2630 9(2):257–266

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • AghaKouchak A, Norouzi H, Madani K, Mirchi A, Azarderakhsh M, Nazemi A, Nasrollahi N, Farahmand A, Mehran A, Hasanzadeh E (2015) Aral Sea syndrome desiccates Lake Urmia: Call for action. J Great Lakes Res 41:307–311.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Alesheikh AA, Ghorbanali A, Nouri N (2007) Coastline change detection using remote sensing. Int J Environ Sci Technol 4:61–66.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Asnaashari A, Gharabaghi B, McBean E, Mahboubi AA (2015) Reservoir Management Under Predictable Climate Variability and Change. J Water Clim Change 6(3):472–485.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dawidek J, Ferencz B (2014) Water Balance of selected floodplain lake basins in the Middle Bug River valley. Hydrol Earth Syst Sci 18:1457–1465.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dehghanzadeh R, Safavi Hir N, Shamsy Sis J, Taghipour H (2015) Integrated Assessment of Spatial and Temporal Variations of Groundwater Qaulity in the Eastern Area of Urmia Salt Lake Basin Using Multivariate Statistical Analysis. Water Resour Manag 29:1351.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Delju AH, Ceylan A, Piguet E, Rebetez M (2012) Observed climate variability and change in Urmia Lake Basin, Iran. Theor Appl Climatol (2013) 111:285–296.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Dingman SL (2015) Physical Hydrology, Third edn. University of New Hampshire, United States of America

    Google Scholar 

  • Dinka MO, Loiskandl W, Ndambuki JM (2014) Hydrologic Modelling for Lake Basaka: Development and Application of a Conceptual Water Budget Model. Environ Monit Assess 186(9):5363–5379

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Drought Risk Management Plan For Lake Urmia Basin (2012) Working group on sustainable management of water resources and agriculture, regional council of lake urmia basin management

  • Eimanifar A, Mohebbi F (2007) Urmia Lake (Northwest Iran): a brief review. Aquat Biosyst BioMed Cent Saline Syst 3:5.

    Google Scholar 

  • Farajzadeh J, Fakheri Fard A, Lotfi S (2014) Modeling of monthly rainfall and runoff of Urmia Lake Basin using "feed-forward neural network" and "time series analysis" model. Water Resour Ind 7-8:38–48

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Fathian F, Morid S, Kahya E (2015) Identification of trends in hydrological and climatic variables in Urmia Lake basin, Iran. Theor App Climatol 119(3-4):443–464

  • Feng L, Hu C, Chen X, Li R (2011) Satellite observations make it possible to estimate Poyang Lake’s water budget. Environ Res Lett 6:044023 (7pp).

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Feng Y, Burian S, Pomeroy C (2016) Potential of green infrastructure to restore predevelopment water budget of a semi-arid urban catchment. J Hydrol 542:744–755

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Ghorbani-Aghdam M, Dinpashoh Y, Mostafaeipour A (2013) Application of factor analysis in defining drought prone areas in Lake Urmia Basin. Nat Hazards 69:267–277.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Hassanzadeh E, Zarghami M, Hassanzadeh Y (2012) Determining the main factors in declining the Urmia Lake level by using system dynamics modeling. Water Resour Manag 26(1):129–145

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Iran Water Resource Management Company (2016) WRM. Accessed 15 Mar 2016

  • Manaffar R, Zare S, Agh N, Siyabgodsi A, Soltanian S, Mees F, Sorgeloos P, Bossier P, Van Stappen G (2011) Sediment cores from Lake Urmia (Iran) suggest the inhabitation by parthenogenetic Artemia around 5,000 years ago. Hydrobiologia 671:65.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Marjani A, Jamali M (2014) Role of exchange flow in salt water balance of Urmia Lake. Dyn Atmos Ocean 65:1–16

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Mattar MA, Alazba AA, Alblewi B, Gharabaghi B, Yassin MA (2016). Evaluating and calibrating reference evapotranspiration models using water balance under hyper-arid environment. Water Resour Manag 30(11):1–23, 3745–3767.

  • Mckee TB, Doesken NJ, Kleist J (1993) The Relationship of Drought Frequency and Duration Times Scales. American Meteorological Society. 8th Conference on Applied Climatology, 17-22 Janvier, Anaheim, pp 179-184.

  • Murthy CS, Kumar MN, Roy PS, Secha Sai MVR (2009) On the use of Standardized Precipitation Index (SPI) for drought intensity assessment. Meteorol Appl 16:381–389

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Nikbakht J, Tabari H, Hosseinzadeh Talaee P (2013) Streamflow drought severity analysis by percent of normal index (PNI) in northwest Iran. Theor Appl Climatol 112:565–573.

  • Presidency of the I.R.I Plan and Budget Organization (2016). Statistical Center of Iran Amar. Accessed 20 Apr 2016

  • Rezvantalab S, Amrollahi MH (2011) Investigation of Recent Changes in Urmia Salt Lake. IJCEE 3:168–171

    Google Scholar 

  • Rokni K, Ahmad A, Selamat A, Hazini S (2014) Water feature extraction and change detection using multitemporal landsat imagery. Remote Sens 6:4173–4189.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Safadoust A, Feizee P, Mahboubi AA, Gharabaghi B, Mosaddeghi MR, Ahrens B (2014) Least limiting water range as affected by soil texture and cropping system. Agric Water Manag 136:34–41.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Saghafian B, Ghobadi Hamzekhani F (2015) Hydrological drought early warning based on rainfall threshold. Nat Hazards 79:815–832.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sayyad G, Vasel L, Besalatpour A, Gharabaghi B, Golmohammadi G (2015) Modeling Blue and Green Water Resources Availability in an Iranian Data Scare Watershed Using SWAT. JWMM. 10.14796/JWMM.C391

  • Shokoohi A, Morovati R (2015) Basinwide Comparison of RDI and SPI Within and IWRM Framework. Water Resour Manag 29:2011–2026.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Silveira L, Gamazo P, Alonso J, Martínez L (2016) Effects of afforestation on groundwater recharge and water budgets in the western region of Uruguay. Hydrol Process 30:3596–3608.

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Singh A, Seitz F, Eicker A, Güntner A (2016) Water Budget Analysis within the Surrounding of Prominent Lakes and Reservoirs from Multi-Sensor Earth Observation Data and Hydrological Models: Case Studies of the Aral Sea and Lake Mead. Remote Sens 2016(8):953

    Article  Google Scholar 

  • Sokolov A A, Chapman TG (1974) Methods for water balance computations, An international guide for research and practice. The UNESCO Press Paris, Paris

  • UNEP (2012) The drying of Iran's Lake Urmia and its environmental consequences. Environ Dev 2(2012):128–137

    Google Scholar 

  • United States Geological Survey (2016) Earthexplorer. Accessed 15 Aug 2015

  • World Meteorological Organization (WMO) (2012) Standardized precipitation ındex, user guide, WMO-No. 1090. World Meteorological Organization, Geneva

  • Yihdego Y, Webb JA (2014) Use of a conceptual hydrogeological model and a time variant water budget analysis to determine controls on salinity in Lake Burrumbeet in southeast Australia. Environ Earth Sci.

  • Zarghami M (2011) Effective watershed management; Case study of Urmia Lake, Iran. Lake Reserv Manag 27:87–94.

    Article  Google Scholar 

Download references

Author information

Authors and Affiliations


Corresponding author

Correspondence to Yusuf Alizade Govarchin Ghale.

Rights and permissions

Reprints and permissions

About this article

Check for updates. Verify currency and authenticity via CrossMark

Cite this article

Alizade Govarchin Ghale, Y., Altunkaynak, A. & Unal, A. Investigation Anthropogenic Impacts and Climate Factors on Drying up of Urmia Lake using Water Budget and Drought Analysis. Water Resour Manage 32, 325–337 (2018).

Download citation

  • Received:

  • Accepted:

  • Published:

  • Issue Date:

  • DOI: