Human impact: 10 Great lakes around the world are starting to disappear
03/29/2021 // Joven Gray // Views

Lakes all over the world are decreasing in size due to the impact of human activities. The rate at which these bodies of water are disappearing is such that experts are warning that they could become a thing of the past in the future.

Lisa Borre, a researcher at the Cary Institute in Millbrook, New York and coordinator of the Global Lake Ecological Observatory Network, said that human activities are one of the main reasons why lakes are starting to decrease in size.

“Extensive research on the worst of these disasters, including well-documented examples such as the Aral Sea and Lake Urmia, show that the main culprit is diverting water or other mismanagement in the watershed that prevents enough water from reaching the lake," Borre explained. "That said, the situation on every lake is unique and requires [an] understanding of its natural setting and climate as well as what is happening to the source of water feeding the lake and the amount of water leaving the lake through natural and human causes.”

In addition to human activities, she did not discount the fact that climate change could also play a role in the disappearance of certain parts of the lakes.

“Climate change can exacerbate problems caused by mismanagement of water resources. With few exceptions, lakes across the globe are warming. The warming climate, combined with more frequent or extreme droughts, creates conditions for increased evaporation and less water reaching lakes,” Borre added.

Here are some lakes in the world that are in huge trouble:


  1. Owens Lake, United States - Once a lake that covered around 108 square miles near the California-Nevada border, the diversion of the Owens River to the LA Aqueductleft the lake totally desiccated by 1926. Aside from the loss of a source of water, residents near the area have also suffered from dust storms clouds coming from the Owens' now dry lakebed.
  2. Aral Sea, Kazakhstan - Once the fourth largest body of fresh water in the world, the Aral Sea lost significant volumes of water as a result of to irrigation projects in the former U.S.S.R. It is estimated that the lake lost 167 billion gallons of water, leaving it with only 10 percent of its original area.
  3. Dead Sea, Middle East - The lowest body of water in the world. The southern part of the Dead Sea has been transformed into ponds in order to extract salt and other minerals which has contributed to its decrease in size. (Related: Dead Sea secrets revealed: Scientists explain why salt crystals pile up in the Dead Sea.)
  4. Lake Fagibine, Mali - Droughts during the past century have greatly reduced the size of this lake. By 1990, the lake had completely dried up. This has forced people living along its shores to seek subsistence from other sources.
  5. Lake Assal, Djibouti - Lake Assal will eventually dry up from evaporation due to its location near a volcanic crater and lack of rainfall. Only subsurface water flow from the nearby Gulf of Aden keeps the lake from drying up. This lake has 10 times greater salinity than seawater and supports the local economy as people in the area harvest salt from it.
  6. Lake Chad, Chad, Niger, Nigeria, Cameroon- Irrigation projects caused this lake gave up 95 percent of its total area -- from 10,000 square miles to just 580 square miles. This massive decrease happened in just a span of 38 years.
  7. Lake Urmia, Iran - Once a luxury vacation destination, Lake Urmia is now a cracked salt bed that only retains 40 percent of its original 2,000 square mile area. This is due to the six dams that now capture the water from a majority of the rivers that used to feed it.
  8. Poyang Lake, China - One of the factors blamed for the decrease in water levels of this lake is the construction of Three Gorges Dam, which caused the water sources of the lake to be diverted. In 2014, the water levels in the lake went so low that it revealed an ancient stone bridge that had been submerged for hundreds of years.
  9. Lake Chapala, Mexico - As of 2001, more than 25 percent of the lake’s surface area had disappeared. Drought and water diversion are blamed for the loss of the lake’s water levels.
  10. Great Lakes, U.S./Canada - Since 1999, these lakes have been losing an average of 1.5 feet of their water level every year. At present, around 2.5 million gallons of water have disappeared from these lakes. The deepening and widening of the St. Clair river is said to be the main culprit of this.

Visit to learn more about the effects of human activities on lakes.

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