World’s Large Lakes Are Drying Up

  • 19 May 2023

On 18th May 2023, a study was published that highlighted concerns about water availability for agriculture, hydropower, and human consumption.

Key findings of the study are:

  • The Effects of Climate Change: The study revealed that more than half of the world's large lakes and reservoirs have experienced significant shrinkage since the early 1990s, primarily due to the effects of climate change.
  • The important freshwater sources, including the Caspian Sea and Lake Titicaca, have collectively lost water at a rate of approximately 22 gigatonnes per year over the span of almost three decades.
  • This amount is equivalent to about 17 times the volume of Lake Mead, the largest reservoir in the United States.
  • Larger Contributing Factors: The findings emphasized that 56% of the decline in natural lakes can be attributed to climate warming and human consumption, with climate warming being the larger contributing factor.
  • Water Loss in Humid Areas: The study found that water loss occurred not only in arid regions but also in humid areas, highlighting the significance of this issue globally.
  • Key Drivers: Unsustainable human use, changes in rainfall and run-off patterns, sedimentation, and rising temperatures were identified as key drivers of the declining lake levels.
  • This has raised concerns regarding water availability for agriculture, hydropower, and human consumption.
  • Drying Up of Lakes: Unsustainable human use has led to the drying up of lakes such as the Aral Sea and the Dead Sea, while rising temperatures have affected lakes in Afghanistan, Egypt, and Mongolia, resulting in increased water loss to the atmosphere.
  • On the other hand, dam construction in remote areas, such as the Inner Tibetan Plateau, has caused water levels to rise in some lakes.
  • Impact of Drying Lakes: The impact of drying lakes is substantial, directly affecting nearly 2 billion people living in these regions, with many areas already experiencing water shortages.
  • Urgency of Limiting Global Warming: To mitigate the most catastrophic consequences of climate change, experts have stressed the urgency of limiting global warming to no more than 1.5 degrees Celsius.
  • Currently, the world is warming at a rate of approximately 1.1 degrees Celsius.