University of Oulu

Torabi Haghighi, A., Fazel, N., Hekmatzadeh, A.A. et al. Analysis of Effective Environmental Flow Release Strategies for Lake Urmia Restoration. Water Resour Manage 32, 3595–3609 (2018) doi:10.1007/s11269-018-2008-3

Analysis of effective environmental flow release strategies for Lake Urmia restoration

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Author: Torabi Haghighi, Ali1; Fazel, Nasim1; Hekmatzadeh, Ali Akbar2;
Organizations: 1Water Resources and Environmental Engineering Research Unit, Faculty of Technology, University of Oulu, PO Box 4300, Oulu, 90014, Finland
2Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering, Shiraz University of Technology, Shiraz, Iran
Format: article
Version: accepted version
Access: open
Online Access: PDF Full Text (PDF, 1.3 MB)
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Language: English
Published: Springer Nature, 2018
Publish Date: 2020-01-10


Saline lakes have diminished considerably due to large-scale irrigation projects throughout the world. Environmental flow (EF) release from upstream reservoirs could help conserve and restore these lakes. However, experiences from regions lacking environmental legislation or with insufficient water resources management show that, despite EF allocation, farmers tend to use all available water for agriculture. In this study, we employed a new method for designing environmental flow release strategies to restore desiccated terminal lakes in arid and semi-arid regions with intensive cultivation within the catchment. The novelty of the method is that it takes into account farmers’ water use behavior and the natural flow regime in upstream systems to design an optimum monthly EF release strategy for reservoirs. We applied the method to the water resource system of Lake Urmia, once the largest saline lake in the Middle East and now one of the most endangered saline lakes in the world. The analysis showed that the EF released is exploited by lowland farmers before reaching Lake Urmia and that inflow to the lake from some rivers has decreased by up to 80%. We propose a new EF release strategy that requires a considerable change in practice whereby water is released in the shortest possible time (according to reservoir outlet capacity) during the period of lowest irrigation demand in winter. Restoring the lake to minimum ecological level would require 2.4–3.4 km³ EF allocation by different methods of release based on the recent condition (2002–2011) of the lake.

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Series: Water resources management
ISSN: 0920-4741
ISSN-E: 1573-1650
ISSN-L: 0920-4741
Volume: 32
Issue: 11
Pages: 3595 - 3609
DOI: 10.1007/s11269-018-2008-3
Type of Publication: A1 Journal article – refereed
Field of Science: 218 Environmental engineering
212 Civil and construction engineering
4111 Agronomy
Copyright information: © Springer Science+Business Media B.V., part of Springer Nature 2018. This is a post-peer-review, pre-copyedit version of an article published in Water resources management. The final authenticated version is available online at: