Lessons Learned from National Experiences  Allocating Environmental Water requirements of Lake Urmia, Iran: an Ecohydrolo...
 Lessons Learned from National Experiences                                                      Lake Urmia basin (LUB) co...
 Lessons Learned from National Experiences                                                                         Lake U...
 Lessons Learned from National Experiences           environmental and institutional components)     The Game and Fish La...
 Lessons Learned from National ExperiencesPlans(EMPs) for Iranian wetlands and refrred to Lake   decision on water alloca...
 Lessons Learned from National Experiences Page 6
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Hashemi - Iran, Sustainable Water Allocation, an Eco-Hydrological Approach


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Hashemi - Iran, Sustainable Water Allocation, an Eco-Hydrological Approach

  1. 1. Lessons Learned from National Experiences Allocating Environmental Water requirements of Lake Urmia, Iran: an Ecohydrological ApproachMukhtar Hashemi  National Consultant, Water Resources Management, UNDP/GEF Conservation ofIranian Wetlands Project
  2. 2.  Lessons Learned from National Experiences Lake Urmia basin (LUB) covers the northern slopes of Mount Zagros and the eastern slopes of theLessons Learned mountain ranges between Iran and Turkey with arid- semi arid climatic conditions. LUB lies in three provinces, Kurdistan, East and West Azerbaijanfrom National (Figure 1). This catchment can be classified as an endorheic (closed) drainage catchment and LakeExperiences Urmia acts as a sink. The actual lake has a surface area of about 5100 km2.It is considered to be one of the ‘most important and valuable ecosystems in Iran’Allocating Environmental Water (WRI, 2005) and had been declared as a Nationalrequirements of Lake Urmia, Iran: an Park, Ramsar Site (since 1971) and UNESCOEcohydrological Approach Biosphere Reserve since (1976). In addition, the lake is surrounded by equally internationally important freshwater wetlands; including Ramsar sites.Photo 1: Lake Urmia water level has dropped more Although, the basin is only 3% of the total area ofthan 6 m below its normal level creating 250,000 ha Iran, it contains more than 7% of the total availableof salt desert (photo by Mukhtar Hashemi) freshwater resources. Therefore, it is of vital importance within the water resources management and planning strategies. Box 1 provides characteristics of natural and environmental issues map of the Lake Urmia. Recently, Lake Urmia has been shrinking with severe environmental consequences such as negative water balance, lower lake level (up to 7 km of coastal retreat), hypersalination and loss of biodiversity. There are 17 permanent rivers, 12 seasonal rivers and 39 floodways which terminate at Lake Urmai. Therefore, Lake Urmai is very sensitive to the surface inflows as only receives a fraction of groundwater discharge (up to 210 MCM). The rivers discharge flows vary in time and space due to temporal and seasonal variation in precipitation. Average rainfall based on 1969-2010 period is 329.6 mm. Population growth and urbanisation explosion have resulted in almost 500% increase in of urban land use had occurred in the sensitive ecological zone around Lake Urmai (Yekom, 2000) for the period 1990-2000. The trend lingers on. Inter-provincial conflicts have risen as a result of the increased urbanisation and population rate. The demand for water resources has risen as wellCase Study area: the largest Salt-lake inWANA region Page 2
  3. 3.  Lessons Learned from National Experiences Lake Urmias environmental inventory and related indicators: • water quality (indicator: salination), • water quantity (indicators: lake level and surface area) and • aquatic bioa (indicator: population of salt lake shrimp, Artima) Based on the above approach, the minimum ecological water requirement of Lake Urmia was determined to be 3100 MCM. Total potential surface water resources in the basin are about 7000 MCM.Map 1: Lake Urmia basin This means than maximum allocation available for other used is about 3900 MCM.Permanent lakes, such as Aral Sea and Lake Urmia,have been affected by the diversion of surface water Policy implications: A New Wetland policymainly for agriculture. A total of 74 dams are to be In policy terms, the role of ecohydrology concept iscompleted. Lake Urmia has a striking similarity with to streamline or link ecological and water policies in athe Aral Sea (. In the last 10 years, surface water coherent way. The fundamental basis of hydro-diversion has affected the salt concentration and ecology is dual regulation as described by Zalewski aswater balance of the Lake. For a decade, inflow into ‘regulation of biota by altering hydrology, andLake Urmia has been in the order of a tenth of the regulation of hydrology by shaping biota’. Hence, aaverage long-term inflow. The precipitation in the new eco-hydrological policy on wetland conservationbasin has been on a downward trend. The salinity has should consider this dual regulation with aincreased, which has caused the demise of the only perspective (Zalewski, undated: 1):organism in the Lake; namely Artimea. Many birds,such as pelicans and flamingo, have lost their habitat • to harmonize ecohydrological measuresand so the Lake is on its death-bed, if the current with necessary hydrotechnical solutions andsituation persists. • to integrate various regulations acts in aMinimum Ecological water requirement synergistic way to stabilize and improve theThe 1971 Ramsar Convention on Wetlands asserts quality of water resourcesthat providing water to wetlands is not just a matter The core aim of the policy is to achieve sustainabilityof meeting its hydrological requirements. Therefore, which is manifested by the dual process and can beit is much more than calculating environmental in- achieved by:stream flows. • Dealing with pressures (threats) such asBased on the ecohydrology concept1 , an appropriate lessening the impact of point and non-pointan ecohydrological model was devised (Abbasspour & pollution; reducing the vulnerability of theNazaridoust, 2007) to calculate the minimum system i.e. dealing effectively withecological water requirement of Lake Urmia based on catastrophic floods and droughts and use of biota as impact indicators (Artima was a1 biota indicator in Lake Urmia case study) Ecohydrology is a transdisciplinary and applied science. It uses theunderstandings of relationships between hydrological and biologicalprocesses at the catchment scale to achieve water quality • Enhancing the resilience of the waterimprovement, biodiversity enhancement and sustainable resources system (i.e. socio-economic,development (Zalewski, undated: 1)  Page 3
  4. 4.  Lessons Learned from National Experiences environmental and institutional components) The Game and Fish Law (1967), by increasing the robustness of the The Protection and Utilisation of Forests and ecosystems through good governance Rangelands and Law Amendments, (institutional arrangements). The coastal Created Property and Land Law (1974),Implementing Ecohyrological policy within Coastal and Reclaimed Land Regulation (1975),IWRM based management policy Executive By-Law of the Environmental ConservationThe good governance principles of IWRM seeks to and Improvement Law –National Parks,achieve ecological integrity of the water resourcessystem i.e. integrating land and water governance EIA legislation (1998),based on environmental and ecological principles. Top Soil Erosion legislation etcHence in policy terms, the new ecohydrologyparadigm is by large represented by the IWRM ideals. and existing water law which is called the Fair WaterThis is a critical conjuncture in which the Distribution Act (1982),implementation of IWRM is linked to the The Fair Water Distribution Law (1982) sets the rules forecohydrological conditions of the ecosystem. This is the conservation and distribution of water for differentalso, convenient since IWRM has been the focal point uses such as urban, industrial and agricultural uses.of water policy reforms in the WANA region (and Notably, it does not consider allocation of water toworldwide) and so it can be incorporated in existing the environment. It also neglects the economic valuepolicy integration mechanisms. Furthermore, These of water. Hence, Lake Urmia water allocation wasreforms, which are essentially shaped by the IWRM not feasible under the existing legislation. Also, theparadigm stemmed from the 1992 Dublin Statement inadequacy of the legislations lies in unaccountabilityon principles of water resources management, have of threats originating from outside the protectedbeen profoundly promoted by international ecosystem. Therefore, a basin-wide policy wasorganizations such as the UN and the World Bank. needed.Applicability to WANA region: Lessons Streamlining water and ecological policieslearned from Lake Urmia Case study The opportunity came in 2003 when the principles ofAn important lessons learned is the use of existing IWRM were officially adopted. An important policypolices and legislations to reinterpret or redefine document called Long Term Development Strategies forthem in the light of the new Ecohydrological Iran’s Water Resources’ was approved by the council ofparadigm. Policy integration is not an easy endeavour Ministers in 2003 (IWRMC, 2004) with 18 articles. Itespecially in highly bureaucratic governance systems. refers to the management, development, consumption, quality and protection of waterExisting polices and legislations were used to support resources.the new policy paradigm including: Minstry of Energy (MoE) in a very wise and calculatedthe 50th Article of The Irans Constitution which is one move incorporated the policy document in the 4th 5-of the most comprehensive and progressive law with year Development Plan (2004-9) which sets 6regard to environmental protection in the world; qualitative and 19 quantitative goals for water sectorthe 45th Principle which makes a statement about the (IWRMC, 2006). It encourages: an integratedownership of the natural resources as public assets; approach to management, consideration of economica great range of legislations relevant to the aspects of water supply, sustainable development,environment such as raising finance, and strengthening public contributions. Articles 17 and 67 refered to the protection of The Environmental Protection and Enhancement Act Wetlands and to establish an Ecological Management(1974), Page 4
  5. 5.  Lessons Learned from National ExperiencesPlans(EMPs) for Iranian wetlands and refrred to Lake decision on water allocation. The RC willUrmia as a specific case. recommend to the National EMP Implementation Council presided by the FirstImplementation of the new policy on Vice President. There three major issues thatwetlands have to be considered in any water allocationIn 2005, UNDP/GEF Conservation of Iranian decisions:Wetlands (CIWP) was started as a joint project withthe Department of Environment (DoE). Unlike Aral 1. the impact of surface water diversion onSea, and as a result of CIWP, Lake Urmai has the balance of the Lake.now an institutional mechanism to be managed 2. salinisation of the Lake Urmia basinin a systematic way. The Memorandum of 3. the impact of anthropogenic climatic and atmospheric change.Understanding (MOU) was signed by all relevant Studies have shown the the Lake requires 3.1parties in September 2008, is an outstanding BCM in normal conditions. This was accepted byachievement to save the lake for future the WAWG group after it was debated. Sincegenerations. The Ecosystem Management Plan then, has been established to reach agreement(EMP) was adopted as part of the agreement. In and facilitate the implementation of the MoUthe EMP, the non-economic (atheistic, scientific, within an evolving national and provincialrecreational and cultural) value of Lake Urmia institutional set up.has been considered and its water requirementor right has been acknowledged. Therefore, a The Way forwardnew water allocation strategy takes into account The case study has shown that ecohydrological policythe Lakes water requirement. Ministry of Energy integration has been influenced by political will and(MoE) is obliged to deliver an agreed amount of support. Lake Urmias diabolical predicament andwater for the lake based on historical water deteriorating environment has made it into an agendainflow and Lakes water quality (optimum salinity status. There was a national outcry to save the Lakefor Artimas growth) and quantity (Lake Urmias at the highest political level. This has helped thewater level) criteria. policy shift to occur. Ecohydrological Policy within IWRM framework canParticipatory water allocation decision enhance the struggle against water scarcity in theoutcomes WANA region by considering the relationshipWater allocation in Iran is highly centrlised and between plant physiology and water availability orMoE allocates water based on recommendations water stress conditions for plant growth. Vegetationfrom its Water Policy and Allocation type and distribution relate directly the soil moistureCommission. However, CIWP faciated a dynamics. The spatial distributions of plants as aparticipatory process in which all the major result of hydrological factors are a major topic instakeholders participated in the water allocation ecohydrogeology. Hence, issues of land cover and land use policy can be enhanced and well understoodfor the lake and the three provinces. For this in the new integrated policy.purpose an institutional set up was arranged. Aregional Council (RC) comprising of all the WANA regions is mostly situated in arid and semi-provincial stakhoders was established. Water arid conditions. This calls for a greater urgency for aand Agriculture Working Group (WAWG) transnational (supernational) eco-hydrological policycomprising of major stakeholders in the basin in the regionfrom all the three provinces was establishedunder the auspices of the RC to come up with a  Page 5
  6. 6.  Lessons Learned from National Experiences Page 6