Desiccation of the Aral Sea: A Water Management Disaster in the Soviet Union

Science  02 Sep 1988:
Vol. 241, Issue 4870, pp. 1170-1176
DOI: 10.1126/science.241.4870.1170


The Aral Sea in the Soviet Union, formerly the world's fourth largest lake in area, is disappearing. Between 1960 and 1987, its level dropped nearly 13 meters, and its area decreased by 40 percent. Recession has resulted from reduced inflow caused primarily by withdrawals of water for irrigation. Severe environmental problems have resulted. The sea could dry to a residual brine lake. Local water use is being improved and schemes to save parts of the sea have been proposed. Nevertheless, preservation of the Aral may require implementation of the controversial project to divert water from western Siberia into the Aral Sea basin.