To humans, water is merely a resource that needs to be used and gathered by any means possible. They have been diverting water for irrigation, food, and for to supply a source of drinks for such a long time. However, due to the growing population, the diversions of water has increased in scale to match the growth rate. These rapid changes towards the environment has caused large-scale alterations to many environments: the main ones being the Aral Sea and the Colorado River.
The Aral Sea
The Aral Sea, bordered by former Soviet republics Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, is supplied by many rivers. The main ones are the Amu Darya and the Syr Darya rivers. In order to promote agriculture, the Soviet government, now the Uzbekistan government, diverted the water from both of the main rivers, which immediately amounted to less water being lead to the sea. The Aral sea was crucial to the surrounding inhabitants due to the fact that it supplied them with a sources of food, being fish, a means of transportation, and way to water their agriculture that would have not survived in such a dry and sandy environment.
With the fading of the seas, came the consequences towards the environment itself, such as the death of the many fish that once were abundant in the area. The death of these fish was like a domino effect on the environment as the animals, such as birds, that once relied on the fish as their food source was ultimately killed off. When the water was diverted, the water soon began to be too salinized for anything to live in it, which what was killing the fish, but it also sped up the rusting effect on the boats, causing heavy metals to get into the water. This made sure that nothing could live in this water and it was not safe for drinking or even bathing purposes. The loss of the water also exposed the lake-bed, which was full of agriculture chemicals due to runoff. When the chemicals traveled when the sand flew off the lake-bed, it settled onto fields which degraded the soil.
There were also consequences to the economy of the region. With the total destruction of the fish, the fishing industry became nonexistent, which was a important money maker to the surrounding people of the lake, since the sandy, dry area was hard to cultivate. With the exposed chemicals in the lake-bed, even the agricultural crops were largely impacted as the few soil that was good to use was being degraded. The surrounding people also lost a means of transportation, which was much more cost effective than to walk around or now even through the lake.
Salton Lake vs. Aral Sea
This situation is somewhat similar to what was happening in the Salton Sea as it was caused by humanities need more water, there has also been an increase of salinity and toxins in the sea, which is destroying the natural wildlife. The causes for both are the same, as the Soviet Union was diverting water from both of the two main water sources. The only difference then is the fact that they are in differing areas of the world.
What is the Aral Sea if it is not a lake anymore?
The region that was once known as the 4th largest lake in the world is now nothing more than a very polluted, dry desert. The loss of the lake also affected the weather as now there is less rain, hotter summers, and colder winters.
The surrounding people not only lost their food source, money source, transportation source, and agriculture source, they also gained many health problems from the vanishing of the Aral Sea. Some of which being many respiratory diseases such as tuberculosis, cancer, and digestive disorders. The toxic dust storms cause liver, kidney, and eye problems. There is now a higher child mortality rate in the region, being 7.5% per 1000 newborns and a maternity death rate of 1.2% in every women. Many kidney and heart disease increased by 15% as well.
How to fix this?
Though the situation is grim, there are some possible solutions that could help this issue. Solutions such as installing desalination plants, installing dames to fill the Aral Sea, pump in sea water from the Caspian sea and dilute it with the freshwater from local catchment areas, redirect water from other rivers to restore the Aral Sea to its formal size, move agriculture to ones that use less water, and so on.
Mono Lake vs. Aral Sea
What is happening at the Aral Sea is what is happening at the Mono Lake, as the government is diverting water from the lake to be used for agriculture and industrial purposes. Both are becoming barren and have tremendous effects on the area and the surrounding area.
Similarities/Differences Between Mono Lake and the Aral Sea
Both of the lakes are going through similar problems that are mainly caused by the human intellect and need for water for various uses within the societal boundaries. Such as the loss of fish life in the water, diversions of the rivers to the lake/sea, and the economic opportunities that were lost due to the loss of fish. There are also many defining differences between both of them. Some of which are the differences in climate in both of the areas vary, the fishing industry, however extremely strong, is still within the Mono Lake while there are no more fish in the Aral sea, the uses of water were different, in that the Soviet Union diverted the water for irrigation while Los Angeles diverted the water to meet the needs of the growing population.
How to fix this problem
There is also a solution to remedy the situation. If the public becomes educated about how the natural environment is being affect by the excessive use of water, then they will also want to learn how to use that water wisely. The California Fish and Game services is attempting to put fish back in the lake. In 1994, even the California State Resources Control Board ordered that the DWP need to raise the water level.