Identifying representative watershed for the Urmia Lake Basin, Iran

  • Seyed Hamidreza SadeghiEmail author
  • Somayeh Kazemi Kia
  • Mahdi Erfanian
  • Seyed Mohammad Sadegh Movahed


Designation of representative watersheds (RWs) as a reference area representing key behavior of the whole region is an essential tool to provide a time and cost-effective basis for monitoring watershed performance against different driving forces. It is more important in developing countries facing lack of necessary investments in one hand and ever-increasing human interventions and need to assess the outcome behavior of the system in another hand. However, this serious affair has been less considered worldwide, in general, and in developing countries, in particular. Therefore, in the present study, a quantitative-based method of Representative Watershed Index (RWI) with potential range from 0 to 100 has been formulated using four important criteria and available national-wide raster data of elevation (meter), slope (%), rainfall erosivity factor (t m ha−1 cm h−1), and land use. The approach was then applied to the data prepared for the unique and invaluable global water ecosystem of the Urmia Lake Basin (ULB), north-western Iran, as a case study. The input raster was overlaid via matrices programming in the MATrix LABoratory (MATLAB) 2016 and Geographic Information System (GIS) 9.3 software environments. The RWIs were accordingly computed for 61 sub-watersheds of the ULB. The RWIs resulted from quadri-partite dimensional matrices that varied from 5.54 to 53.46 with respective maximum dissimilarity and resemblance with the entire 61 study sub-watersheds in the region. However, the sub-watershed with RWI of 40.65 (No. 57) was proposed as the final RW for the whole ULB due to hydrological independency, appropriate locality, and existence of functioning meteorological and hydrometric stations. The identified RW would be suggested to be considered as the basis for future insight monitoring and assessing environmental issues for the region eventually leading to an appropriate adaptive watershed management.

Graphical abstract


Monitoring network Natural hazards assessment Representative catchment Watershed management 



The present research was collaboratively supported by the Tarbiat Modares University and the National Mega Project on the Integrated Watershed Management in Iran whose valuable facilitation and financial supports are greatly appreciated. The authors also wish to express their gratitude to the corresponding authorities for their cooperation in field surveying and providing valuable data. Many thanks to Dr. A. Sadoddin, Dr. A. Khaledi Darvishan, Dr. Z. Hazbavi (Post-Doctorate Candidate at Agrohydrology Research Core, Tarbiat Modares University), and Mrs. S. Babaei for their assistances in project planning, providing necessary data, research documentation, and software analyses.


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Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Watershed Management Engineering, Faculty of Natural Resources and Member of Agrohydrology GroupTarbiat Modares UniversityNoorIran
  2. 2.Department of Rangeland and Watershed Management EngineeringUrmia UniversityUrmiaIran
  3. 3.Department of PhysicsShahid Beheshti UniversityTehranIran

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