Skip to content Skip to navigation Skip to collection information

OpenStax-CNX

You are here: Home » Content » Sustainability: A Comprehensive Foundation » Case Study: The Aral Sea - Going, Going, Gone

Navigation

Table of Contents

Lenses

What is a lens?

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

This content is ...

Affiliated with (What does "Affiliated with" mean?)

This content is either by members of the organizations listed or about topics related to the organizations listed. Click each link to see a list of all content affiliated with the organization.
  • JVLA Affiliated

    This collection is included inLens: Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy Affiliated Material
    By: Jesuit Virtual Learning Academy

    Comments:

    "An interesting piece to start conversations about sustainability. "

    Click the "JVLA Affiliated" link to see all content affiliated with them.

  • U of I OST Initiative

    This collection is included in aLens by: University of Illinois Open Source Textbook Initiative

    Click the "U of I OST Initiative" link to see all content affiliated with them.

Also in these lenses

  • University of Illinois display tagshide tags

    This collection is included in aLens by: U of I Open Source Textbook Initiative

    Click the "University of Illinois" link to see all content selected in this lens.

    Click the tag icon tag icon to display tags associated with this content.

  • Physical Geography Lens display tagshide tags

    This module and collection are included inLens: AA_Research Physical Geography Lens
    By: Alisa Alering

    Click the "Physical Geography Lens" link to see all content selected in this lens.

    Click the tag icon tag icon to display tags associated with this content.

  • an xntrek lens display tagshide tags

    This collection is included inLens: Taiss Quartapa's Lens
    By: Taiss Quartapa

    Click the "an xntrek lens" link to see all content selected in this lens.

    Click the tag icon tag icon to display tags associated with this content.

Recently Viewed

This feature requires Javascript to be enabled.

Tags

(What is a tag?)

These tags come from the endorsement, affiliation, and other lenses that include this content.
 

Case Study: The Aral Sea - Going, Going, Gone

Module by: Steve Altaner. E-mail the author

The Aral Sea is a lake located east of the Caspian Sea between Uzbekistan and Kazakhstan in central Asia (see Figure Map of Aral Sea Area). This area is part of the Turkestan desert, which is the fourth largest desert in the world; it is produced from a rain shadow effect by Afghanistan's high mountains to the south. Due to the arid and seasonally hot climate there is extensive evaporation and limited surface waters in general. Summer temperatures can reach 60° C (140° F)! The water supply to the Aral Sea is mainly from two rivers, the Amu Darya and Syr Darya, which carry snowmelt from mountainous areas. In the early 1960s the then-Soviet Union diverted the Amu Darya and Syr Darya Rivers for irrigation of one of the driest parts of Asia to produce rice, melons, cereals, and especially cotton. The Soviets wanted cotton or “white gold” to become a major export. They were successful and today Uzbekistan is one of the world's largest exporters of cotton. Unfortunately this action essentially eliminated any river inflow to the Aral Sea and caused it to disappear almost completely.

Figure 1: Map of Aral Sea Area Map shows lake size in 1960 and political boundaries of 2011. Countries in yellow are at least partially in Aral Sea drainage basin. Source: Wikimedia Commons
map of aral sea area

In 1960 Aral Sea was the fourth largest inland water body; only the Caspian Sea, Lake Superior, and Lake Victoria were larger. Since then, it has progressively shrunk due to evaporation and lack of recharge by rivers (see Figure Shrinking Aral Sea Blue). Before 1965 the Aral Sea received 20–60 km3 of fresh water per year from rivers and by the early 1980s it received none. By 2007 the Aral Sea shrank to about 10% of its original size and its salinity increased from about 1% dissolved salt to about 10% dissolved salt, which is 3 times more saline than seawater. These changes caused an enormous environmental impact. A once thriving fishing industry is dead as are the 24 species of fish that used to live there; the fish could not adapt to the more saline waters. The current shoreline is tens of kilometers from former fishing towns and commercial ports. Large fishing boats lie in the dried up lakebed of dust and salt (see Figure An Abandoned Ship). A frustrating part of the river diversion project is that many of the irrigation canals were poorly built, allowing abundant water to leak or evaporate. An increasing number of dust storms blow salt, pesticides, and herbicides into nearby towns causing a variety of respiratory illnesses including tuberculosis.

Figure 2: Shrinking Aral Sea Blue area gives size of Aral Sea in 1960, 1970, 1980, 1990, 2000, 2004, 2008, and 2009 Source: NordNordWest at Wikimedia Commons
map of shrinking aral sea
Figure 3: An Abandoned Ship This abandoned ship lies in a dried up lake bed that was the Aral Sea near Aral, Kazakhstan Source: Staecker at Wikimedia Commons
a photograph of an abandoned ship in a dried up lake bed that was the Aral Sea

The wetlands of the two river deltas and their associated ecosystems have disappeared. The regional climate is drier and has greater temperature extremes due to the absence of moisture and moderating influence from the lake. In 2003 some lake restoration work began on the northern part of the Aral Sea and it provided some relief by raising water levels and reducing salinity somewhat. The southern part of the Aral Sea has seen no relief and remains nearly completely dry. The destruction of the Aral Sea is one of the planet’s biggest environmental disasters and it is caused entirely by humans. Lake Chad in Africa is another example of a massive lake that has nearly disappeared for the same reasons as the Aral Sea. Aral Sea and Lake Chad are the most extreme examples of large lakes destroyed by unsustainable diversions of river water. Other lakes that have shrunk significantly due to human diversions of water include the Dead Sea in the Middle East, Lake Manchar in Pakistan, and Owens Lake and Mono Lake, both in California.

Collection Navigation

Content actions

Download module as:

Add:

Collection to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks

Module to:

My Favorites (?)

'My Favorites' is a special kind of lens which you can use to bookmark modules and collections. 'My Favorites' can only be seen by you, and collections saved in 'My Favorites' can remember the last module you were on. You need an account to use 'My Favorites'.

| A lens I own (?)

Definition of a lens

Lenses

A lens is a custom view of the content in the repository. You can think of it as a fancy kind of list that will let you see content through the eyes of organizations and people you trust.

What is in a lens?

Lens makers point to materials (modules and collections), creating a guide that includes their own comments and descriptive tags about the content.

Who can create a lens?

Any individual member, a community, or a respected organization.

What are tags? tag icon

Tags are descriptors added by lens makers to help label content, attaching a vocabulary that is meaningful in the context of the lens.

| External bookmarks