Famous Water Diversions

The Aral Sea

The Aral Sea, when full and at the present.

Much closer to home, the Salton Sea in California is in a similar, but not so dire, situation. It is a shallow, slightly shrinking lake on the San Andreas Fault. However, it is a man-made lake (also used for irrigation purposes).

Despite the name being a "sea", the Aral Sea is more of a toxic desert with a dead lake. This has led to a sharp increase in local health problems. Contaminants like heavy metals and fertilizers are among the many causes of an increase in infant mortality. There are many with nutritional deficiencies. There are many respiratory tract infections. Also, several types of cancer have risen in occurrence.

Reduction of water usage for agriculture could let more water get back into the Sea, and a clean-up effort for the toxic wastes would help restore productivity to the land.

Another Californian lake, Mono Lake, was in a very similar situation. Used heavily to give water to Los Angeles from the 1940's to the 1970's. The size was reduced by more than half. The situation with the Aral Sea is similar because the water was diverted for human uses, the rate at which it was used was larger than the rate it was replenished, and the effects on the environment were similar. However, it was used for civil uses instead of agricultural ones. In addition, the lake was saved through efforts throughout the 1980's. Also, the people who led the conservation efforts consisted of a large amount of college students.

Some efforts have been taken to slow the Aral Sea from being completely gone. A dam has portioned off the northern section, and that section has regained some water and increased in environmental health. However, there are very little efforts in motion that are slowing the destruction of the Aral Sea as a whole at the moment.

Situated between Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan, the Aral Sea was one of the four largest lakes in the world. It was fed by the Syr Darya and the Amu Darya. It is currently less than 10% of its original water.

The Aral Sea started losing water when the Soviet government started making irrigation channels to water cash crops, such as cotton (this worked for a short time). However, the irrigation channels were usually in poor condition and not water-proofed, allowing much water to escape before reaching its destination.

The Aral Sea had provided a large portion of all Soviet fish-catching, supplying around one-sixth of the total. It had strong fishing and harbor industries. Now, however, the water level has fallen about 23 meters. There is immense destruction of aquatic ecosystems. The water is extremely salty now, and the exposed portions of the Sea are completely useless. There have even been dust storms caused by the desertification of the Sea.The fishing and harbor industries are all but gone, now sitting miles away from the shoreline. There has even been an impact on the muskrat-trapping industry in the region. The total estimated cost of damage is above 850 million dollars.

The Colorado River

According to the US Drought Monitor, 11 of the past 14 years in the southwest have seen drought, ranging from severe to extreme. This drought, as well as a massive amount of water diversion, has led to all-time lows of the water level in the Colorado River. The diversion of the Colorado River was heavily influenced by the diversion of the Aral Sea and Salton. The Colorado River diversion was not nearly as bad as either of the other two seas, though, as the Aral Sea diversion caused the sea to recede and the Salton Sea’s diversion caused the water to become more saline.

The Colorado River is the fifth longest river in the US, spanning 1450 miles with over 20 main tributaries (rivers or streams flowing into a larger river or lake). Some of the main tributaries include Gila River in Arizona, San Juan River in New Mexico, Colorado, and Utah, Green river in Wyoming, Colorado, and Utah, and the Gunnison River in Colorado.The source of this massive river is the Gulf of California, though the most important origin of water is the Rocky Mountains.

The Colorado River flows through seven states and Mexico, which all use some of the water from it. The water in the river is divided between the lower and upper basin, but is used by each state through a series of aqueducts which send the water for use of consumption and irrigation. Unfortunately, arguments still occur when some states need more water than the others. occurrences such as endangered species and drought cause conflict, which is generally resolved through conferences. When it comes to arguments over public and private use, the Colorado River Salinity Control Program takes control and manages issues.

The dwindling amount of water in the Colorado River is causing major problems for North Mexico, which gets a large amount of its water from the River. this can easily be remedied, though, by letting the water levels replenish and only using a sustainable amount.

The issues with the Colorado River can also be seen across the world in China. the Yangtze River is also being depleted by a growing population, but has a much greater discharge rate. On the River, the Chinese built the Three Gorges Dam to hold back flood water and provide electricity to surrounding areas. As good as it is, the Dam displaced millions of people, forcing them to relocated.It also prevents around 300 fish species from moving upstream, compared to the 4 species which are affected by the Hoover Dam. Various archaeological sites have been established with ancient relics being found in the areas where flooding was prevented by the dam.

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