Lake Urmia

Lake Urmia (Persian: دریاچه ارومیه‎, Daryâche-ye Orumiye) is an endorheic salt lake in Iran.[4][5] The lake is located between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan in Iran, and west of the southern portion of the Caspian Sea. At its greatest extent, it was the largest lake in the Middle East and the sixth-largest saltwater lake on Earth, with a surface area of approximately 5,200 km2 (2,000 sq mi), a length of 140 km (87 mi), a width of 55 km (34 mi), and a maximum depth of 16 m (52 ft).[6] The lake has shrunk to 10% of its former size due to damming of the rivers that flow into it, and the pumping of groundwater from the surrounding area.[7]

Lake Urmia, along with its approximately 102 islands, is protected as a national park by the Iranian Department of Environment.

Lake Urmia
Lake urmia 1984
Lake Urmia from space in 1984
Coordinates37°42′N 45°19′E / 37.700°N 45.317°ECoordinates: 37°42′N 45°19′E / 37.700°N 45.317°E
Typesalt (hypersaline) lake
Primary inflowsZarriné-Rūd, Simineh-Rūd, Mahabad River, Gadar River, Barandouz River, Shahar River, Nazlou River, Zola River, Qatur River, Kaftar Ali Chay, Aji Chay, Boyuk Chay, Rudkhaneh-ye Qal'eh Chay, Qobi Chay, Rudkhaneh-ye Mordaq, Leylan River
Primary outflowsnone: all water entering the lake is lost through evaporation
Basin countriesIran
Max. length140 km (87 mi)
Max. width55 km (34 mi)
Surface area5,200 km2 (2,000 sq mi)
Max. depth16 m (52 ft)
Salinity217–235 g L−1 Na–(Mg)–Cl–(SO4) brine[1]
8–11% in spring, 26-28% in late autumn[2]
Islands102 (see list)
Official nameLake Urmia [or Orumiyeh]
Designated23 June 1975
Reference no.38[3]
Lake Urmia Shrinkage
Diminishing of surface of Lake Urmia
Urmia Lake
Lake Urmia, NW Iran, September 2015

Names and etymologies

Richard Nelson Frye suggested Urartian origin for the name[8] while T. Burrow connected the origin of the name Urmia to Indo-Iranian urmi- "wave" and urmya- "undulating, wavy".[9]

Locally, the lake is referred to in Persian as Daryāche-ye Orūmiye (دریاچه ارومیه), in Azerbaijani as Urmu gölü, and in Kurdish as Zerivar-i Wermi. The traditional Armenian name is Kaputan tsov (Կապուտան ծով), literally "blue sea". Residents of Shahi Island refer to the lake in Azerbaijani as Daryā meaning Sea.[10][11][12]

Its Old Persian name was Chichast, meaning "glittering", a reference to the glittering mineral particles suspended in the water of the lake and found along its shores. In medieval times it came to be known as Lake Kabuda (Kabodan),[13] from the word for "azure" in Persian, or kapuyt ('կապույտ') in Armenian. Its Latin name was Lacus Matianus, thus it is referred to in some texts as Lake Matianus or Lake Matiene.

Archaeology and history

The Lake Urmia region has a wealth of archaeological sites going back to the Neolithic period. Archaeological excavations of the settlements in the area have found artifacts that date from about 7,000 BCE and later.

Excavations at Teppe Hasanlu archeological site southwest of Lake Urmia also revealed habitations going back to the 6th millennium BC.

A related site is Yanik Tepe, on the east shore of Lake Urmia, that has been excavated in the 1950s and 60s by C. A. Burney.[14]

Another important site in the area, from about the same era, is Hajji Firuz Tepe, where some of the oldest archaeological evidence of grape-based wine was discovered.

Kul Tepe Jolfa is a site in the Jolfa County about 10 km south from the Araxes River. It dates to Chalcolithic period (5000–4500 BC).

Se Girdan kurgans are located on the south shore of Lake Urmia. Some of them were excavated in 1968 and 1970 by O. Muscarella. They have now been redated to the second half of the 4th millennium, although originally they were thought to be much younger.[15]

One of the early mentions of Lake Urmia is from Assyrian records of the 9th century BCE. There, in the records from the reign of Shalmaneser III (858–824 BCE), two names are mentioned in the area of Lake Urmia: Parsuwaš (i.e. the Persians) and Matai (i.e. the Mitanni). It is not completely clear whether these referred to places or tribes, or what their relationship was to the subsequent list of personal names and "kings". But the Matai were Medes and linguistically the name Parsuwaš matches the Old Persian word pārsa, an Achaemenid ethnolinguistic designation.[16]

The lake was the center of the Mannaean Kingdom. A potential Mannaean settlement, represented by the ruin mound of Hasanlu, was on the south side of the lake. Mannae was overrun by the Matiani or Matieni, an Iranian people variously identified as Scythian, Saka, Sarmatian, or Cimmerian. It is not clear whether the lake took its name from the people or the people from the lake, but the country came to be called Matiene or Matiane, and gave the lake its Latin name.

The Battle of Urmia was fought near the lake in 1604, during the Ottoman–Safavid War of 1603–1618.

In the last five hundred years the area around Lake Urmia has been home to Iranians, Assyrians, and Armenians.


The main cations in the lake water include Na+, K+, Ca2+, Li+ and Mg2+, while Cl, SO2−
are the main anions. The Na+ and Cl concentration is roughly four times the concentration of natural seawater. Sodium ions are at slightly higher concentration in the south compared to the north of the lake, which could result from the shallower depth in the south, and a higher net evaporation rate.

The lake is divided into north and south, separated by the Urmia Lake Bridge and its associated causeway, which was completed in 2008. The bridge provides only a 1.5-kilometre (0.93 mi) gap in the embankment, allowing little exchange of water between the two sections. Due to drought and increased demands for agricultural water in the lake's basin, the salinity of the lake has risen to more than 300 g/l during recent years, and large areas of the lake bed have been desiccated.[17]

The Fist of Osman, Lake Urmia's smallest island[18]



A palynological investigation on long cores from Urmia Lake has revealed a nearly 200 kyr record of vegetation and lake level changes. The vegetation has changed from the Artemisia/grass steppes during the glacial/stadial periods, to oak-juniper steppe-forests during the interglacial/interstadial periods. The lake has had a complex hydrological history and its water levels have fluctuated greatly in geological history. Very high lake levels have been suggested for some time intervals during the two last glacial periods, as well as during both the Last Interglacial as well as the Holocene. The lowest lake levels have occurred during the last glacial periods.

Modern ecology

Based on the latest checklists of biodiversity at Lake Urmia in 2014 and 2016, it is home of 62 species of archaebacteria and bacteria, 42 species of microfungi, 20 species of phytoplankton, 311 species of plants, five species of mollusca, 226 species of birds, 27 species of amphibians and reptiles and 24 species of mammals (47 fossils have been recorded in the area).[20][21]

Lake Urmia is an internationally registered protected area as both a UNESCO Biosphere Reserve[19] and a Ramsar site.[22] The Iranian Dept. of Environment has designated most of the lake as a National Park.[23]

The lake is marked by more than a hundred small, rocky islands, which serve as stopover points during the migrations of a number of bird species, including flamingos, pelicans, spoonbills, ibises, storks, shelducks, avocets, stilts, and gulls. A recent drought has significantly decreased the annual amount of water the lake receives. This in turn has increased the salinity of the lake's water, reducing its viability as home to thousands of migratory birds, including a large flamingo populations. The salinity has particularly increased in the half of the lake north of the Urmia Lake Bridge.

By virtue of its high salinity, the lake no longer sustains any fish species. Nonetheless, Urmia Lake is considered a significant natural habitat of Artemia, which serve as food source for the migratory birds such as flamingos.[24] In early 2013, the then-head of the Iranian Artemia Research Center was quoted that Artemia urmiana had gone extinct due to the drastic increases in salinity. However this assessment has been contradicted,[25] and another population of this species has recently been discovered in the Koyashskoye Salt Lake at the Crimean Peninsula.[26]

Falling level and increasing salinity

The lake is a major barrier between Urmia and Tabriz, two of the most important cities in the provinces of West Azerbaijan and East Azerbaijan. A project to build a highway across the lake was initiated in the 1970s but was abandoned after the Iranian Revolution of 1979, leaving a 15 km (9.3 mi) causeway with an unbridged gap. The project was revived in the early 2000s, and was completed in November 2008 with the opening of the 1.5 km (0.93 mi) Urmia Lake Bridge across the remaining gap.[27] The highly saline environment is already heavily rusting the steel on the bridge despite anti-corrosion treatment. Experts have warned that the construction of the causeway and bridge, together with a series of ecological factors, will eventually lead to the drying up of the lake, turning it into a salt marsh, which will adversely affect the climate of the region.

Bridge construction over Lake Urmia in 2005

Lake Urmia has been shrinking for a long time, with an annual evaporation rate of 0.6 to 1 m (24 to 39 in). Although measures are now being taken to reverse the trend[28] the lake has shrunk by 60% and could disappear entirely.[28] Only 5% of the lake's water remains.[29]

On 2 August 2012, Muhammad-Javad Muhammadizadeh, the head of Iran's Environment Protection Organization, announced that Armenia had agreed to transfer water from Armenia to counter the critical fall in Lake Urmia's water level, remarking that "hot weather and a lack of precipitation have brought the lake to its lowest water levels ever recorded". He added that recovery plans for the lake included the transfer of water from Eastern Azerbaijan Province. Previously, Iranian authorities had announced a plan to transfer water from the Aras River, which borders Iran and Azerbaijan, but the 950-billion-toman plan was abandoned due to Azerbaijan's objections.[30]

Urmia lake drought
Satellite imagery from 1984 to 2014, revealing Lake Urmia's diminishing surface area (video)

In July 2014, Iran President Hassan Rouhani approved plans for a 14 trillion rial program (over $500 million) in the first year of a recovery plan. The money is supposed to be used for water management, reducing farmers' water use, and environmental restoration. Several months earlier, in March 2014, Iran's Department of Environment and the United Nations Development Programme (UNDP) issued a plan to save the lake and the nearby wetland, which called for spending $225 million in the first year and $1.3 billion overall for restoration.[31]

Starting in 2016, Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations (FAO) and Urmia Lake Restoration Program (ULRP) signed up to a project funded by the Government of Japan entitled "An Integrated Programme for Sustainable Water Resources Management in the Lake Urmia Basin" to support ULRP in its goal to restore Lake Urmia. The project set out a multi-disciplinary framework covering several key interrelated areas and aims to have five outputs: 1. An advanced water accounting (WA) system for the entire Lake Urmia basin; 2. A drought management system based on risk/vulnerability assessment and preparedness response for the basin; 3. A socio-economic livelihood programme with viable and sustainable alternatives to current agricultural activities upstream of the lake to reduce water consumption significantly while maintaining the income and livelihood of affected communities; 4. An integrated watershed management (WM) programme; A capacity development programme to strengthen stakeholders at different levels.

The Silveh Dam in Piranshahr County should be complete in 2015. Through a tunnel and canals it will transfer up to 121,700,000 m3 (98,700 acre⋅ft) of water annually from the Lavin River in the Little Zab basin to Lake Urmia basin.[32][33][34]

In 2015, president Hassan Rouhani's cabinet approved $660 million for improving irrigation systems, and steps to combat desertification.[35]

In September 2018, A working group tasked with reviving Lake Urmia has started to grow two types of plants to save the region from salt particles.The two plants are “Nitraria” or Karadagh and “Tamarix” or Shoorgaz, which are planted on the land of Jabal Kandi village in Urmia County, to slow down the wind that brings with itself the salt particles.[36]

Environmental protests

سرخی دریاچه ارومیه-۴
Lake Urmia in July 2016

The prospect that Lake Urmia might dry up entirely has drawn protests in Iran and abroad, directed at both the regional and national governments. Protests flared in late August 2011 after the Iranian parliament voted not to provide funds to channel water from the Aras River to raise the lake level.[37][38] Apparently, parliament proposed instead to relocate people living around Urmia Lake.[38]

More than 30 activists were detained on 24 August 2011 during an iftar meal.[38] In the absence of a right to protest publicly in Iran, protesters have incorporated their messages into chants at football matches.[37][39] On 25 August, several soccer fans were detained before and after the Tabriz derby match between Tractor Sazi F.C. and Shahrdari Tabriz F.C.. for shouting slogans in favor of protecting the lake, including "Urmia Lake is dying, the Majlis [parliament] orders its execution".[37][38][40][41]

Further demonstrations took place in the streets of Tabriz and Urmia on 27 August and 3 September 2011.[37][39][42] Amateur video from these events showed riot police on motorcycles attacking apparently peaceful protesters.[39][43] According to the governor of West Azerbaijan, at least 60 supporters of the lake were arrested in Urmia, and dozens in Tabriz, because they had not applied for a permit to organize a demonstration.[44]

On May 5, 2016, Leonardo Di Caprio posted a photo of "a dilapidated ship dock remains on dried up Urmia Lake" on his Instagram page stating: "It used to be the biggest salt lake in the Middle East, but it now contains five percent of the amount of water it did two decades ago due to climate change, dam construction and decrease in precipitiation."[45]


Lake Urmia had approximately 102 islands.[46] Shahi Island was historically the lake's largest. However, it became a peninsula connected to the eastern shore when the lake level dropped.[1][47]

Shahi Island is the burial place of both Hulagu Khan (one of Genghis Khan's grandsons) and of Hulagu's son Abaqa. Both khans were buried in a castle above 1,000-foot (300 m) cliffs along the shore of the island.[48]

In 1967, the Iranian Department of Environment sent a team of scientists to study the ecology of Shahi Island. Various results of the study, which included the breeding habits of brine shrimp, were published by Javad Hashemi in the scientific journal, Iranian Scientific Sokhan.

Basin rivers

Lake Urmia is fed by 13 permanent rivers and many small springs, as well as rainfall directly into the lake.[1] Nearly half the inflow comes from the Zarrineh River and Simineh River.[1] There is no outflow from the lake so water is only lost through evaporation.[1]

In popular culture

Lake Urmia was the setting of the Iranian film The White Meadows (2009), which featured fantastic-looking lands adjacent to a salt sea. There are many popular songs about Lake Urmia in Azeri Turkish, such as "Urmu Golu Lay Lay".[49]

See also


  1. ^ a b c d e Stevens, Lora R.; Djamali, Morteza; Andrieu-Ponel, Valérie; de Beaulieu, Jacques-Louis (1 April 2012). "Hydroclimatic variations over the last two glacial/interglacial cycles at Urmia Lake, Iran" (PDF). Journal of Paleolimnology. Springer Netherlands. 47 (4): 647. doi:10.1007/s10933-012-9588-3.
  2. ^ Urmia Lake. 2012. Encyclopædia Britannica Online. Retrieved 14 August 2015, from
  3. ^ "Lake Urmia [or Orumiyeh]". Ramsar Sites Information Service. Retrieved 25 April 2018.
  4. ^ Henry, Roger (2003) Synchronized chronology: Rethinking Middle East Antiquity: A Simple Correction to Egyptian Chronology Resolves the Major Problems in Biblical and Greek Archaeology Algora Publishing, New York, p. 138, ISBN 0-87586-191-1
  5. ^ E. J. Brill's first encyclopaedia of Islam, 1913–1936, vol. 7, page 1037 citing Strabo and Ptolemy.
  6. ^ "Britanica". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  7. ^ "Saving Iran's great salt lake". Science. September 2, 2015.
  8. ^ Richard Nelson Frye, The history of ancient Iran, München (1984), 48–49
  9. ^ The Proto-Indoaryans, by T. Burrow, The Journal of the Royal Asiatic Society of Great Britain and Ireland, No. 2 (1973), pp. 123–140, published by: Cambridge University Press, see 139
  10. ^ Amurian, A.; Kasheff, M. (15 December 1986). "Armenians of modern Iran". Encyclopædia Iranica. Urmia (class. Arm. Kaputan) ...
  11. ^ Russell, James R. (1987). Zoroastrianism in Armenia. Harvard University. p. 430. Urmia Lake, called Kaputan cov by Arm. geographers&nbsp:...
  12. ^ "Armenian Highland". Institute for Armenian Studies of Yerevan State University. In the Armenian Highland there are numerous lakes and ponds. The most majors are Kaputan (Urmia), Van and Sevan.
  13. ^ See, e.g. the Shahnama.
  14. ^ C. A. Burney, Excavations at Yanik Tepe, North-West-Iran, Iraq 23, 1961, pp. 138ff.
  15. ^ O. W. Muscarella, “The Chronology and Culture of Se Girdan: Phase III,” Ancient Civilizations from Scythia to Siberia 9/1-2, 2003, pp. 117-31
  16. ^ cf. Skjærvø, Prods Oktor (2006), "Iran, vi(1). Earliest Evidence", Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. 13
  17. ^ Alireza Asem; Fereidun Mohebbi; Reza Ahmadi (2012). "Drought in Urmia Lake, the largest natural habitat of brine shrimp Artemia" (PDF). World aquaculture. 43: 36–38.
  18. ^ "Saline Systems; Urmia Salt Lake, Iran". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  19. ^ a b "UNESCO Biosphere Reserve Directory".
  20. ^ Asem A., Eimanifar A., Djamal M., De los Rios P. and Wink M. (2014) Biodiversity of the Hypersaline Urmia Lake National Park (NW Iran), Diversity, 6: 102-132. [1]
  21. ^ Asem A., Eimanifar A. and Wink M. (2016) Update of "Biodiversity of the Hypersaline Urmia Lake National Park (NW Iran)". Diversity, 8: 6, doi:10.3390/d8010006 [2]
  22. ^ Ramsar Sites Information Service
  23. ^ ProtectedPlanet - Urumieh lake
  24. ^ C. Michael Hogan. 2011. Urmia Lake. Eds. P. Saundry & C.  J.Cleveland. Encyclopedia of Earth. National Council for Science and the Environment. Washington, D.C.
  25. ^ Critical condition of Artemia urmiana and possibility of extinction
  26. ^ Eimanifar A; Asem A; Djamali M; Wink M (2016). "A note on the biogeographical origin of the brine shrimp Artemia urmiana Günther, 1899 from Urmia Lake, Iran". Zootaxa. 4097 (2): 294–300. doi:10.11646/zootaxa.4097.2.12.
  27. ^ "Iran's East and West Azerbaijan Provinces Connected by Lake Orumiyeh Bridge". Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  28. ^ a b Karmi N. Iran's largest lake turning to salt. Associated Press 25 May 2011.
  29. ^ Erdbrink, Thomas (30 January 2014). "Its Great Lake Shriveled, Iran Confronts Crisis of Water Supply". New York Times. Archived from the original on 2 September 2014. Retrieved 11 May 2017.
  30. ^
  31. ^
  32. ^ "Completed by the end of the 94 dams Silveh Piranshahr" (in Persian). Kurd Press. 23 August 2014. Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  33. ^ "Silveh Dam and Irrigation and Drainage" (in Persian). Omran Iran - Deputy Governor of West Azerbaijan. Archived from the original on 20 January 2015. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  34. ^ Edris Merufinia; Azad Aram; Fatemeh Esmaeili (2014). "Saving the Urmia Lake: from Slogan to Reality (Challenges and Solutions)" (PDF). Bulletin of Environment, Pharmacology and Life Sciences. 3 (3). ISSN 2277-1808. Retrieved 20 January 2015.
  35. ^ Saving Iran’s great salt lake - - 2 September 2015
  36. ^
  37. ^ a b c d Mackey, Robert (30 August 2011). "Protests in Iran Over Disappearing Lake". Iran: New York Times. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  38. ^ a b c d "Azeri Activists Detained In Iran For Environmental Protests". RFE/RL. 26 August 2011. Retrieved 12 November 2015.
  39. ^ a b c "Iranian greens fear disaster as Lake Orumieh shrinks". The Guardian. London. 5 September 2011.
  40. ^ "Rally protesting Iran over Urmia Lake turns violent". Hurriyet Daily News. 1 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  41. ^ "Iranian Protest Urges Help for Shrinking Lake". San Francisco Chronicle. 30 August 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  42. ^ "Azeri Turks in Ankara protest Urmia Lake drying up". Archived from the original on 6 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  43. ^ "Iran police break up environmental protests". 4 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  44. ^ "Iran arrests saltwater lake protesters". BBC. 4 September 2011. Retrieved 4 September 2011.
  45. ^
  46. ^ List from: Farahang-e Joghrafiyayi-e shahrestânhâ-ye Keshvar (Shahrestân-e Orumiyeh), Tehran 1379 Hs.
  47. ^ Asem, Alireza; Eimanifar, Amin; Djamali, Morteza; De los Rios, Patricio; Wink, Michael (2014). "Biodiversity of the Hypersaline Urmia Lake National Park (NW Iran)". Diversity (6): 102–132. doi:10.3390/d6020102.
  48. ^ Boyle, John Andrew (1974). "The Thirteenth-Century Mongols' Conception of the After Life: The Evidence of their Funerary Practices". Mongolian Studies. Mongolia Society. 1: 7. ISSN 0190-3667. JSTOR 43193015.
  49. ^

External links

Alamlou River

Alamlou River is a endorheic river in northern Iran, that flows into the south end of Lake Urmia.

It should not be confused with the Alamut River, a distinct Iranian river to the east.

Barandouz River

The Baranduz River is a river in north west Iran which flows into the saltwater Lake Urmia. It is named after the village of Baran Duz.

After the building of the Baranduz Dam, the flow of the river was greatly reduced, contributing to the severe desiccation of Lake Urmia.


Bonab (Persian: بناب‎; also Romanized as Bonāb and Benāb; also known as Bināb, Bunab, Binov, and Binev) is a city and capital of Bonab County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. It is located west of Maragheh on the outwash plain above Lake Urmia. The people speak Azerbaijani. At the 2006 census, its population was 75,332, in 19,922 families.

Bonab County

Bonab (Persian: شهرستان بناب‎) is a county (shahrestan) in the East Azerbaijan Province in Iran. The capital of the county is Bonab. The county is located on the east side of Lake Urmia. At the 2006 census, the county's population was 125,209, in 31,921 families. The county has one district: the Central District. The county has one city: Bonab.

The main language spoken is Azeri. The name of the city, however, is like most other towns in East Azerbaijan, of the Old Azari/Tati origin, means "1000 houses". The meaning "water base" can be considered true because back when the lake Urmia had not lost more than half of its water, digging ground for 5 meters gained your access to water in Bonab. but it's not an original meaning.

Gadar River

The Gadar River rises in the Iranian Zagros Mountains near the point where the borders of Iran, Turkey and Iraq meet. From its source, the river first flows towards the southeast and then changes course due east through the Ushnu-Solduz valley. After leaving the valley, the river turns north and flows into marshes bordering Lake Urmia. The length of the river is approximately 100 kilometres (62 mi), its drainage basin is variously estimated as 1,900 square kilometres (730 sq mi) and 2,123 square kilometres (820 sq mi) and its discharge is 0.34 cubic metres (12 cu ft) per second. The Ushnu-Solduz valley has been occupied since many millennia, as testified by the excavations at sites like Hasanlu Tepe and Hajji Firuz Tepe.

List of rivers of Iran

This is a list of the rivers wholly or partly in Iran, arranged geographically by river basin from west to east.

Mahabad River

Mahabad River is a endorheic river in Mahabad county Iran, located at 36°46′03″N 45°42′06″E and which flows into the southern end of Lake Urmia.

The river has been crossed by the Mahabad Dam near the city of Mahabad, West Azerbaijan province

Nazlou River

The Nazlou Chay', is a river in Kurdistan Province and West Azarbaijan Province, Iran, where it flows into Lake Urmia.

The river is part of the lake Urmia Catchment near the border of Iraq, Turkey, and Armenia, over use of the water resources of this river has contributed the shrinking of Lake Urmia in recent years.

Nor Shirakan

Nor Shirakan (Armenian: Նոր Շիրական), Parskahayk (Armenian: Պարսկահայք) or Persarmenia, was the seventh province of the ancient kingdom of Armenia, situated on the western shore of Lake Urmia, bordered on Adiabene and Atropatene, now in northwestern Iran. Following the partition of Greater Armenia between the Roman Empire and Sassanid Empire in 387, the territory under Sassanid influence came to be known as Persarmenia. The region of Arzanene, traditionally part of Lesser Armenia, also became part of Persarmenia.

Zarehavan was the centre of the province.

Persarmenia had nine cantons:







Ayli (Kurijan)



Oshnavieh County

Oshnavieh (Persian: شهرستان اشنویه‎)(in local Kurdish: 'اشنۆ'شنۆ'شنه‌) is a county in West Azerbaijan Province, in northwestern Iran. It lies west of Lake Urmia about 1,300 metres above sea level. The capital of the county is Oshnavieh. It lies in the on border to the Kurdish provinces Iraq. The county is surrounded by huge mountains who keep the mild weather even under the summers. At the 2006 census, the county's population was 63,798, in 12,998 families. The county is subdivided into two districts: the Central District and Nalus District. The county has two cities: Oshnavieh and Nalus.

The population of Oshnavieh is Kurdish and most of them are Sunni Muslims.

Shahin Dezh

Shahin Dezh (Persian: شاهين‌دژ‎; also Romanized as Shāhīn Dezh; also known as Şā’īn Dezh, Shahindej, and Sahin Dazh; formerly, Sāīn Kale, صائین قالا and Şā’īn Qal‘eh) is the capital city of Shahin Dezh County, in the West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. In the 2006 census, its population was 43،852, with 8,671 families.Shahin Dezh is located about 1,300 metres in elevation. The city is on the Zarriné-Rūd river, southeast of Lake Urmia.


Sharafkhaneh (Persian: شرفخانه‎; also Romanized as Sharafkhāneh, Sharifkhane, Sharifkhaneh, and Sheraf-Khane; also known as Bandar-e Sharafkhāneh) is a city in the Central District of Shabestar County, East Azerbaijan Province, Iran. Sharafkhaneh is situated on Lake Urmia. At the 2011 census, its population was 3,585, in 1,133 families.Sharafkhaneh is a gardening city, and used to have an active tourism industry before Lake Urmia began to dry up.

Silvaneh District

Silvaneh District (Persian: بخش سیلوانه‎) is one of the five districts (bakhsh) in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. It is west of Lake Urmia, and lies between the city of Urmia and the Turkish border. Its administrative center is the city of Silvaneh. At the 2006 census, its population was 52,752, in 9,140 families. The District has one city: Silvaneh. The District has three rural districts (dehestan): Dasht Rural District, Margavar Rural District, and Targavar Rural District.

The population of the district is Kurdish and Assyrian.

Simineh River

The Simineh River (Persian: سیمّینه رود‎ Sīmīneh Rūd, Sīmmīneh Rūd), also known as the Tatavi Chay (Tatāhū Čāy), is a river in northern Iran, that flows into the south end of Lake Urmia. It is just over 200 kilometres (124 mi) long and has a catchment basin (watershed) of 2,090 square kilometres (810 sq mi). Its waters are used primarily for agriculture and the return flow significantly degrades its water quality.Like its twin the Zarineh River to the east, the Simineh arises in the Zagros Mountains of Kurdistan Province and flows north through West Azarbaijan Province. Unlike its twin, the Simineh has considerably less flow into Lake Urmia. Like the rest of the steams in the basin, the river has a seasonal variability in its flow rates, but during the spring run-off the river can discharge as much as 57,000 litres per second (15,000 US gal/s) into Lake Urmia.The Simineh River flows just to the west of the city of Bukan, and provides some of their water.

Sufi Chay

Sufi Chay (صوفی چای) is a river in north-west Iran, at 37° 19' 45" N, 46° 4' 36" E. The river rises at Mount Sahand in the mountains to the east of Lake Urmia, and flows south past Alavian and Senshon till it reaches Maragheh city where it turns east and enters Lake Urmia in a large delta at Bonab.

Sumay-ye Beradust District

Sumay-ye Beradust District (Persian: بخش صومای برادوست‎; also Romanized as Sumay Baradust and Somay Baradoost; in Kurdish: Somay Brados) is a district (bakhsh) in Urmia County, West Azerbaijan Province, Iran. It is west of Lake Urmia, between the city of Urmia and the border with Turkey. Its administrative seat is the town of Serow. At the 2006 census, its population was 39,802, in 6,760 families. The District has one city: Serow. The District has three rural districts (dehestan): Beradust Rural District, Sumay-ye Jonubi Rural District, and Sumay-ye Shomali Rural District.

Urmia Lake Bridge

The Urmia Lake Bridge or Urmia Lake Causeway is a road bridge in northern Iran. It is the largest and longest bridge in Iran, and crosses Lake Urmia, connecting the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan. The project was completed in November 2008.

The bridge reduced the driving distance between Tabriz and Urmia by 135 kilometres (84 mi), saving time and fuel consumption, and reducing road accidents. It has helped stimulate cultural exchanges, tourism and trade between the provinces of East Azerbaijan and West Azerbaijan.

West Azerbaijan Province

West Azerbaijan Province is one of the 31 provinces of Iran. It is in the northwest of the country, bordering Turkey, Iraq and Azerbaijan's Nakhchivan Autonomous Republic, as well as the provinces of East Azerbaijan, Zanjan and Kurdistan. The province is part of Region 3. It is separated from Armenia by Turkey's short border with the Azerbaijan Republic. The province of West Azerbaijan covers an area of 39,487 km², or 43,660 km² including Lake Urmia. In 2012 the province had a population of about 3 million (estimate). The capital city and largest city of the province is Urmia.

Zola River

The Zola River, also known as the Zola Chai is a river in Iran, flowing into Lake Urmia. It runs north of Urmia and west of Salmas. Rising in the mountains along the border with Turkey, it flows southwest along the Salmas Plain. The river has a catchment area of 846 km².

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