Sawa lake

The Sawa Lake: A Victim of Human Activities and Climate Change

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Lakes around the world are drying up due to climate change. This is particularly evident in Iraq, where the Sawa lake has now completely dried up. The lack of water is due to a combination of factors, including drought, upstream water usage, and climate change. This has had a devastating impact on the local communities that rely on the lake for their livelihoods.

The Sawa Lake in Iraq’s southern province of Muthanna has now thoroughly dried up due to human activities and climate change. Located in an area that is prone to drought, the drying up of the Lake has devastating consequences for the local population.

Sawa Lake Location

Sawa Lake was a biodiverse wetland near the city of Samawa, south of Baghdad. But because of human activities and climate change, it has almost completely disappeared. The Lake is now completely dry. Only a tiny pond with a few fish in it is left. There are bottles and plastic bags all over its old banks. Environmentalists say that the Lake’s water level has dropped during dry seasons in the past, but this is the first year that the Lake has completely dried up. 

Sawa lake
Sawa lake

Sawa lake a Ramsar Site

The Lake was declared a Ramsar site in 2014. After two years of severe drought, the Sawa Lake in the southern province of Muthanna in Iraq is now completely dry. In fact, rising temperatures and a significant drop in the water levels of the Tigris and Euphrates have caused severe droughts all over the country. An official from the Iraqi Ministry of Water Resources said that for the first time in Iraq’s history, Sawa Lake is now completely dry.

These photos, taken by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites on 19 April 2017 and 18 April 2022, demonstrate the tremendous difference. It is clear that the water has disappeared after about five years.

Drying of Sawa lake

Since 2014, the two square miles (five square kilometres) lake has been drying up. In the past, when it was dry, the area of water would shrink. Today, all that is left on the sandy, salt-covered ground is a small pond where tiny fish swim in a source that leads to an underground water table. “Climate change and rising temperatures” are what led to this.

This year, Lake Sawa in Iraq dried up because of poor water management by the government and climate change.

Lake Sawa is an endorheic lake in the Muthanna area. It is 4.5 kilometres long and 1.8 kilometres wide. It is close to the Euphrates River and the city of Samawa. The Lake gets its water from rain and water that seeps up through cracks and fissures in the ground. The Lake’s water level used to change between dry and wet seasons because of the balance between water supply and evaporation, but it never dried up.

The Lake has been mentioned in an old Islamic book for hundreds of years, and every year, millions of religious pilgrims bathe in its holy waters. People say that the minerals in the water of the Lake, which is called “the pearl of the south,” are good for skin health.

sawa lake before and after
sawa lake before and after Image Credit: European Union, Copernicus Sentinel-2 imagery of Lake Sawa in Iraq

Overuse and climate change kill Sawa Lake.

Lake Sawa is just another victim of Iraq’s water problem. Drought and poor rainfall have resulted from climate change. Furthermore, owing to negligence, water infrastructure has deteriorated, and dams in upstream regions have restricted the flow of the Tigris and Euphrates rivers.

Muthanna is one of the country’s poorest provinces, with a history of violence and sanctions impeding economic progress. Water scarcity causes competition for water supplies among business owners, farmers, and herders. Illegal wells take lake water for adjacent companies that can no longer rely on the Euphrates’ dwindling resources. Wells also draw water to extract salt, which is utilised in a variety of businesses. The government might have preserved the Lake by requiring the closing of illicit wells, but this would have gone against the economic interests of local leaders.

Lake deterioration began more than a decade ago, but it vanished for the first time this year. The Lake was declared a Ramsar site in 2014. Plans to pave roads and walkways surrounding the Lake, as well as build power lines and water projects to enhance tourism in the region, never came to fruition.

More about Sawa Lake

Sawa Lake is an unusual lake in Iraq. It was distinguished by the excessive salinity of the Iraqi wetlands, having no inflow and outflow. The Lake is an extensive confined basin with no route of surface water available to it. 

Sawa Lake, the only one of its kind in Iraq, is significant for its scientific, ecological, and biological value. Sawa Lake is located in the southwestern portion of Muthanna Province, approximately 25 kilometres west of Samawa, west of the Euphrates River, and about 4 kilometres west of the Al-Atshan River (branch of the Euphrates river).

Sawa Lake has a total area of 10 km2, with a length of 4.75 km and a breadth ranging from 0.5 to 1.75 km. There is no surface water entering Sawa Lake, and there is no outflow either. The source of its water may be the groundwater mix between the deep and shallow aquifers at the Lake’s bottom, particularly the Euphrates, Dammam, and Umm Er Radhuma aquifers, via a system of seams and fractures.


Climate change is already impacting the lakes around the world, and the situation is only going to become more dire in the coming years. Rising temperatures are causing ice caps to melt, increasing water levels and leading to changes in lake ecosystems. In some cases, this has already led to the disappearance of freshwater fish species and a decrease in plant life. Climate change also makes it harder for lakes to retain water, meaning that they can become increasingly dry and unhealthy over time.

In conclusion, the drying up of Sawa Lake is a direct result of human activities and climate change. It is a stark reminder that we must take action to protect our environment and conserve our natural resources. We must also work to prevent further climate change, which is already causing devastating consequences around the world.

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