Geophysics

How can human activity create, destroy or massively alter a lake?
Answered by Discovery Channel
  • Discovery Channel

    Discovery Channel

  1. It's a natural process for some lakes to appear and disappear. There's a lake in Chile in Bernardo O'Higgins Park that appeared sometime within the last 30 years and then disappeared unexpectedly in 2007. In Florida, Lake Jackson regularly disappears and comes back over the years, during certain seasons.

    Sometimes, however, such changes don't occur naturally - - sometimes, human behavior bears the responsibility for causing natural bodies of water to disappear or undergo massive changes. For example, Lake Peigneur in Louisiana used to be an 11-foot (3.35-meter) deep, freshwater lake with a surface that spread over 1,300 acres (526.1 hectares). In 1980, when an oil rig drill got stuck 1,200 feet (366 meters) below the lake's surface, a whirlpool appeared and sucked everything into the hole. By a miscalculation, the drilling rig had operated in the wrong place, and the ensuing chain of events led to the freshwater lake disappearing and being replaced by the saltwater from the Delcambre Canal and Gulf of Mexico. Lake Peigneur became a 1,300-foot (396-meter) deep saltwater lake.

    The Salton Sea in California was essentially created by an industrial accident. Throughout the years, the Salton Basin had held different amounts of water at different times, and sometimes, it held no water. It became a permanent lake in 1905, when a work crew was busy constructing a canal that would divert part of the flow of the Colorado River. Because the canal was not very well built, it was easily breeched. The waters of the Colorado River overtook the walls of the canal and flowed down into the Salton Basin, creating an enormous lake. Nobody closed the leak for more than a year, and as a result, the Salton Sea remains the largest lake in California. These days, the Salton Sea is a receptacle of the irrigation runoff from many nearby agricultural sites.

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