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Open map of IranFlag of IranIran / Geography /
Orumiyeh lake
Other spellings: Urmia; Orumieh





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Orumiyeh Lake

Satellite view of Orumiyeh lake, Iran. Photo: NASA
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Satellite view of Orumiyeh lake, Iran. Photo: NASA

The Osman fist, of Orumiyeh lake.
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The Osman fist, of Orumiyeh lake.

The Artemia brine shrimp, less than 1 cm long.
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The Artemia brine shrimp, less than 1 cm long. The largest living crature surviving in the Orumiyeh lake.

Largest lake of Iran. The surface area depends on seasonal variations, from 5,200 km² to 6,000 km². It lies 1,275 metres above sea level, forming the bottom in a depression between high mountains. It is 140 km long and 55 km at its widest, and is shallow, only 16 metres at the deepest. It has 102 islands, none inhabited.
When at its largest, the lake grows mainly into the lands south and east, claiming a landscape of salt marshes.
There are 3 main rivers bringing water to the lake, one in the north, and two to the south. There are no outlets for the lake, hence a very high salt level. The salt levels can in late automn be as high as 28%. The main salts are chlorine, sodium and sulfates. Among salt lakes in the world, it is ranked the 3rd largest.
There is very little organic life in the lake, no fish. Brine shrimp is largest creature surviving here. There have been breeding populations of sheldrake, flamingo and pelican, as well as migratory birds, but increase in salt levels has driven many types of birds away.
In the 1st millennium BCE, the lake was the centre of the Mannai kingdom. Today it belongs to Iranian Azerbaijan. Only small towns lie immediately to the lake, further away are the major cities of Orumiyeh (480,000 inhabitants, 15 km west); Tabriz (1.3 million inhabitants, 45 km east); Maragheh (170,000 inhabitants, 20 km southeast); Khvoy (170,000 inhabitants, 40 km north); Miandoab (120,000 inhabitants, 30 km south); and Mahabad (140,000 inhabitants, 30 km south).
The surrounding area thrives on agriculture, and is in particular known for the fine grapes. Surrounding agriculture and population have taken more water for irrigation, causing an increase in the salt levels.
Since 1967 the lake has been a wetland protected region.
A causeway completed in 2008 divides the lake in two and connects the western and eastern shores. The causeway stops the circulating waters except for a 1.5 km stretch.




By Tore Kjeilen