I am always surprised when some piece of information I’m looking for is actually not on the Internet. Such was the case this afternoon when I searched for a list of the largest endorheic waterbodies in the world. An endorheic waterbody is a terminal lake (sometimes called a sea) that has no outlet other than evaporation. In other words, rivers and streams flow in but nothing flows out. Since the only way water escapes is via evaporation everything else – salt, nutrients, pollution – are continuously concentrated in the remaining water. Some, like the Dead Sea, are so salty they cannot support life, but others support very unique ecosystems.
I’ve become interested in endorheic lakes because they are a microcosm for a number of water-related issues and act as a catchall for the pollution we put into our waterways. Take, for example, Devils Lake in North Dakota. Having no outlet means that the level of the lake can increase dramatically over a short period of time. Since 1995, water levels have gone up nearly 25 feet destroying hundreds of homes and businesses and inundating thousands of acres of productive farmland. State government constructed an outlet to release water into a nearby river but faced stern opposition from other states and Canada, who don’t want pollution and parasites from Devils Lake transferred into their waters. As you can see, it can become quite the predicament. Just wait until I get around to blogging about the Salton Sea!
Anyway, I was searching the Internet for a list of the largest endorheic lakes and I just couldn’t find one. Sure, Wikipedia has a list of the largest lakes in the world, but this only includes a handful of endorheic lakes. Wikipedia also has a page on endorheic basins, which mentions a lot of lakes but not in any structured way. It also intermingles them with drainage basins, which may capture water without outlet but are clearly not lakes. So, Internet, you’re welcome, because today I have constructed for you a list of the Top Ten Endorheic Lakes of the World (by surface area). Continue reading Ten Largest Endorheic (Salty) Lakes of the World