Extra than 50 % of the world’s biggest lakes and reservoirs have shrunk more than the previous 3 decades mainly due to climate alter and human activity, according to a new study. From these bodies of water, around 600 cubic kilometers of water had been lost involving 1992 and 2020 – an quantity equivalent to the total water utilised in the United States for all of 2015.
It has also been observed that a lot more than half of the reservoirs positioned in peninsular India have knowledgeable a important decline in water storage, primarily due to sedimentation. Additionally, amongst the worst impacted all-natural lakes in the nation is Tso Moriri in Ladakh.
The study, published in the journal Science final week, “Satellites Reveal Widespread Declines in Worldwide Lake Water Storage,” was performed by Fangfang Yao, Ben Livneh and Balaji Rajagopalan, of the Cooperative Institute for Environmental Science Analysis (University of Colorado Boulder). , USA), Yoshihide Wada of the Climate and Livability Initiative (King Abdullah University of Science and Technologies, Saudi Arabia), Jean-Francois Cretauk and Muriel Berge-Nguyen, of the Laboratory for Space Geophysical and Oceanographic Research (France).
The continued decline in the quantity of lakes, Yao and Rajagopalan told The Indian Express through e-mail, has led to a decline in fresh water supplies, environmental degradation and deterioration of water high-quality for men and women and livestock. Meanwhile, the lack of water above a particular level in the reservoirs of hydropower plants can negatively have an effect on the production of hydroelectricity.
The Aral Sea in Central Asia has dried up drastically due to unsustainable water consumption. On the left is a satellite image taken in 2000, and on the ideal is a image clicked in 2018. (Photo: NASA Earth Observatory)
“If it encroaches on lakes (as is the case in India with smaller sized lakes), they disappear as a supply of water, but also contribute to important urban floods. Loss of lake level leads to pumping and depletion of groundwater, top to a host of other challenges,” Rajagopalan added.
How was the study performed?
For their study, Yao and his group examined 1,975 of the world’s biggest lakes, such as 1,052 all-natural lakes and 921 reservoirs—the researchers studied lakes bigger than one hundred square kilometers and reservoirs with a lot more than 1 cubic kilometer of storage capacity. The evaluation was accomplished according to a new methodology that involved combining two-dimensional water places with one particular-dimensional water levels to estimate the 3-dimensional alter in water storage.
“We utilised 250,000 pictures of the lake location captured by satellites involving 1992-2020.” to discover the location of the 1,972 biggest lakes on Earth. We collected water levels from nine satellite altimeters and utilised lengthy-term water levels to cut down any uncertainty. “For lakes devoid of lengthy-term level records, we utilised current water measurements produced by newer instruments on satellites,” explained Yao.
“Combining current level measurements with lengthy-term surface measurements permitted us to reconstruct the volume of the lake dating back decades,” he added.
What are the findings of the study?
The researchers identified that of the 1,052 all-natural lakes surveyed, 457 had important water losses more than the previous 3 decades. Meanwhile, 234 all-natural lakes received water and 360 such water bodies did not show any important trend.
They attributed 57 % of the net decline in water in all-natural lakes to human activities, such as unsustainable water consumption, and increases in temperature and possible evapotranspiration (PET) — the loss of water by way of evaporation and transpiration — with the latter two pointing to the part of climate alter.
The study also identified the worst-impacted biggest lakes about the planet and why they are shrinking. For instance, the Aral Sea in Central Asia, Lake Mar Chiquita in Argentina, of the Dead Sea in the Middle East, and the Salton Sea in California has largely dried up due to unsustainable water consumption. When the boost in temperature and PET brought on the total disappearance of Lake Govd-e-Zareh in Afghanistan, Lake Toshka in Egypt and important drying of Lake Kara-Bogaz-Gol in Turkmenistan, Lake Khiargas in Mongolia and Lake Zonag in China.
Arctic lakes have shrunk as a outcome of “a mixture of adjustments in precipitation, runoff, temperature, and PET, most likely a simultaneous outcome of all-natural variability and climate alter,” the researchers mentioned in the study. Notably, lakes have shrunk or disappeared totally in 82 % of the Arctic’s lake-wealthy regions more than the previous 20 years, according to a 2022 study.
In India, apart from Tso Moriri Lake, Pulicat Lake and Kolleru Lake in Andhra Pradesh had been impacted, but they had been not integrated in the study mainly because they had been “beneath our threshold so they did not make it into our analyses,” Rajagopalan told The Indian Express. .
Yet another discovering is that contrary to prior research, all-natural lakes positioned in the humid tropics and at higher altitudes also practical experience water shortages.
In addition, the newest document mentions that two-thirds of all reservoirs worldwide have knowledgeable important declines in storage. Reservoirs, nonetheless, showed a net worldwide boost in water levels, thanks to 183 lately filled reservoirs. The major explanation for falling water levels is sedimentation — the course of action by which particles such as sand and rocks settle to the bottom of the water.
“Our discovering suggests that sedimentation is the main contributor to the worldwide decline in storage in current reservoirs and has a higher influence than hydroclimate variability, namely drought and drought recovery,” the researchers mentioned.
What are the consequences of shrinking lakes?
According to the study, almost two billion men and women, one particular-quarter of the world’s population in 2023, will be impacted mainly because they reside in basins with huge water bodies that have witnessed important declines in water levels more than the previous 3 decades.
“Quite a few of these arid lakes have been identified as essential sources of water and power (hydropower),” the researchers mentioned in their paper. The decreased size of these lakes not only leads to freshwater depletion and environmental degradation, but also disrupts the water and carbon cycle.
Widespread water shortages in these water bodies, “specifically accompanied by increasing lake temperatures, could cut down the quantity of carbon dioxide absorbed and boost carbon emissions into the atmosphere, provided that lakes are hotbeds of the carbon cycle.” the study adds.
How can we save these water bodies?
Jao and Rajagopalan mentioned to save the shrinking lakes, there is a have to have to handle them in an integrated manner. Actions such as limiting water consumption and mitigating climate impacts to decrease worldwide temperatures are some of the approaches to conserve them. This will also support cut down sedimentation in reservoirs mainly because the price of sedimentation is linked to climate alter — it increases when there is intense rainfall, as effectively as land disturbances such as fires, landslides and deforestation.
“This (lake management in an integrated manner) will elevate the status of lakes to their rightful spot, and they can continue to sustain humanity.” We take care of them, they will take care of us, of the ecology in a life-affirming way,” mentioned Rajagopalan.