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PHOTOS: Five of the World's Lakes at Risk of Drying Up Completely

By By Kristen Rodman, Staff Writer
July 23, 2014, 12:47:59 AM EDT

Due to drought, water reallocation and industrialization, nations across the globe are finding that some of the world's most iconic bodies of water are disappearing.

1. Aral Sea

Once the world's fourth largest lake, located between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea has undergone numerous changes over the centuries, but today it is nearly dried up.

Formed by the combined flows of both the Syr Darya and Amu Darya rivers, the Aral Sea was re-figured in the 1960's by the Soviet Union, in an attempt to make the region's desert landscape more hospitable for farming.


Nearly 40 years later, the northern and southern parts of the lake separated and the southern part of the lake was split into two parts - east and west. In 2001, the southern connection was detached and the eastern portion of the lake began to recede. Soon after a drought plagued the area for approximately four years, from 2005 to 2009, cutting the water flow of the southern part of the lake to the Amu Darya, according to NASA.

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As the lake began to dry out rapidly, Kazakhstan built a dam between the northern and southern parts of the sea, directing all the water from the Syr Darya into the northern part of the sea. This doomed the lake's southern portion, but that was deemed to be too difficult to save by country officials.

Since the construction of the dam, water levels rebounded some, but the region's fisheries collapsed and public health advisories were issued as dust from the dry lake bed contaminated the soil.

2. Cachuma Lake

Amid the historic drought in California, concerns in Santa Barbara County mount, as the county's main water source, the Cachuma Lake, is rapidly shrinking.

"We have had three extremely low rainfall winters for the last three years," Deputy Public Works Director for the Santa Barbara County Public Works Department Water Resources Division Tom Fayram said.

Supplying approximately 200,000 people across the Southern California county, officials and residents are waiting for the rain to come, as the water supply available today from the lake is under 20 percent.


"The lake was last filled in March 2011, just over three years ago, and it was full," Fayram said. "Today, we are down to the capacity at about 34 percent."

As a part of the state's attempt to aid drought-stricken areas, water is being brought down from parts of Northern California and ground water reserves are getting tapped. However, these measures can only last so long, rain is still crucial.

"We will get through at least October of 2015 and we are hoping to get through the winter of 2015/2016," Fayram said. "Odds are it is going to rain again and the lake will fill, but our challenge is getting from this point to that one."

3. Lake Oroumieh

Located in northwestern Iran, near the Turkish border, Lake Oroumieh, one of the biggest saltwater lakes on Earth, is shrinking fast and is subject to drying out entirely within the next two years if actions are not taken to save it, according to an Associated Press article.


Waning nearly 80 percent, down to 400 square miles, in the past decade, rocks that were once deep underwater sit at the surface, AP stated.

Previously a popular tourist destination and migration point for numerous birds, including flamingos, pelicans and gulls, Iran's president, Hassan Rouhani, and his cabinet, promised the Iranian people that he would work to revive the lake.

Foreign experts and scientists are being brought into the lake's region, according to AP, to attempt to figure out the best solution for saving the lake and thus reviving the region's economic and environmental atmosphere.

4. Dead Sea

The lowest point on Earth, named one of the natural wonders of the world, is dying, the Associated Press reported.

The Dead Sea, commonly called the Salt Sea, borders Jordan to the east and Palestine and Israel to the west. It is divided into two sections - the northern and southern basins. However, the two basins do not connect to one another.


On the southern basin, the waters are actually rising as flooding threatens the well-being of the ecosystem. This portion of the sea has become an extraction site by many chemical companies, who extract lucrative minerals from the lake. Taking chemicals out of the lake leaves tons of salt on the bottom of the sea, causing the water levels to rise nearly 8 inches per year, according to the AP.

However, on the northern basin of the Dead Sea, the water levels are instead dropping.

As Jordan, Israel and Syria all redirected the Jordan River and its tributaries for drinking water purposes, the flow to the Dead Sea has been drastically reduced, the AP stated.

In an effort to help save the sea's waters, the World Bank is considering channeling water through a canal from the Red Sea; however, the project would cost billions of dollars so it is unlikely that this solution would be plausible anytime soon, according to the AP.

5. Lake Waiau

Declining to only two percent of its normal surface area over the last five years, the Office of Mauna Kea Management and the Department of Land and Natural Resources and the Division of Forestry and Wildlife are trying to figure out exactly why Hawaii's Lake Waiau has become almost eradicated.


Fluctuating between 1.2 to 1.7 acres, the lake began quickly disappearing in early 2010. By last September, it had already been reduced to just 0.03 of an acre, according to the USGS.

According to detailed research by Idaho State University's Geography Professor Donna Delparte, prior to 2010, the lake's maximum depth was 3 meters. Today, it is less than 1 foot deep, and the current volume is less than one percent of its pre-2010 value.

While the state's Mauna Kea visitor center weather station shows that the drought in Hawaii, which began in 2008 and intensified in 2010, may be the culprit, other factors such as permafrost are also being considered.

Have questions, comments, or a story to share? Email Kristen Rodman at or follow her on Twitter @Accu_Kristen. Follow us @breakingweather, or on Facebook and Google+.

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