Undercurrents: beneath the obvious

December 10, 2006

Lake Victoria (2nd largest lake behind Superior) is dropping fast

Filed under: Aral Sea,Great Lakes News,Water Wars — nemo @ 11:32 pm

Many news sites including SE Florida’s Herald Tribune have carried this story about the dramatic reduction in lake levels in Lake Victoria:

At 27,000 square miles, the size of Ireland, Victoria is the greatest of Africa’s Great Lakes — the biggest freshwater body after Lake Superior. And it has dropped fast, at least six feet in the past three years, and by as much as a half-inch a day this year before November rains stabilized things.

The outflow through two hydroelectric dams at Jinja is part of the problem — a tiny part, says the Uganda government, or half the problem, say environmentalists. But much of what is happening to Victoria and other lakes across the heart of Africa is attributable to years of drought and rising temperatures, conditions that starve the lakes of inflowing water and evaporate more of the water they have.

And the African map abounds with other, less startling examples, from Lake Turkana in northern Kenya, getting half the inflow it once did, to the great Lake Tanganyika south of here, whose level dropped over five feet in five years.

Each troubled lake is a complex story.

There are 30 million people living in the Lake Victoria basin, about the same that live in the Great Lakes basin (33 million). Like our Great Lakes basin, Lake Victoria is a vital source — of livelihoods and food, of water, of transportation, of electric power.

Read the whole story for an examination of causes. You’ll find the usual ones in the list: hydroelectric dams, irrigation, and water diversions. There’s also climate change discussed for about a third of the article and that’s too bad. Climate change is too often used as an excuse for not taking action; i.e., it’s the weather, we can’t do anything about that, let’s just watch the lake dry up. It would be too bad if local initiatives to stem the drastic water loss were delayed.

Think globally but act locally!

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  1. Depends on how you define largest and lake. The Caspian Sea is the largest, then Superior, and third comes Victoria.

    Comment by Cousier Rose — March 14, 2007 @ 1:12 pm | Reply

  2. The Caspian Sea is called “sea” because the Romans, finding it salty, named it Mare Caspium. Many geographers, however, consider it a lake because it is land-locked.

    The Caspian Sea (152,239 sq miles, 394,299 sq km) is 5 times larger than Lake Superior by area.

    Lake Superior is the largest freshwater lake.

    Comment by nemo — March 14, 2007 @ 2:14 pm | Reply

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