The water level of Urmia Lake, the largest inland lake in Iran with maximum water surface area of about 6000 km(2), has been shrinking for the last two decades. Although a number of study have been performed to determine drought condition and coastline changes of Urmia Lake, there has not been a detailed study to distinguish anthropogenic effects from climate impacts on the drying of Urmia Lake. In this study, water budget of Urmia Lake and the intensity of drought in the basin were analyzed in the period from 1985 to 2010 and a new hypothesis is proposed to quantify anthropogenic and climate impacts in reducing the volume of Urmia Lake. The results of this study indicate that human impacts on the Lake and its basin are more important than climate factors. Though previous studies assumed that ground water output from Urmia Lake is negligible, the results of this study show the presence of significant groundwater seepage from Urmia Lake. Major changes in the variables that reduced the water level of Urmia Lake were observed since 1998. Anthropogenic impacts and climate factors have roughly 80% and 20% effects on the drying up of Urmia Lake, respectively. Hence, the first step to recover Urmia Lake could be the revision of management surface water, operation of dams and groundwater resources. The second step could be the review and classification of agricultural products grown in the region in terms of water consumption and teach local people the best practice methods for irrigation.