The Colorado River
The Colorado river is undoubtedly one of the most important rivers in Earth’s geological history, for it created the majestic and awe-inspiring Grand Canyon, producing one of the greatest geological landscapes ever recorded—and sadly, its well documented drying out is also being recorded in the history books. The river had already been suffering from less flow due to hydroelectric dams, but now its reservoirs, including Lake Powell and Lake Mead, are also shrinking due to increases in temperatures and greater demand for water. It is a river that, infamously, no longer reaches the sea, and, with current climate trends and population needs, probably shall not again until the next great climate shift.
Lake Chad is possibly the most famous drying African lake, and for good reason; the dramatic contrasts between photographs of the lake along the years has produced an aesthetic of aquatic necrosis, with lake water decaying into the greens of vegetation, which, without water, themselves will also die away, consumed by the inexorable advancement of the Sahara. Extreme usage of the water, not exclusively for human consumption but for agricultural irrigation and livestock hydration as well, has taken its toll on the lake, and if continued to be used in such unsustainable manners, the lake is predicted to completely dry out in 20 years.
The Danube is losing its blue. Europe’s second-longest waterway is potentially under threat of suffering the same fate as the Colorado river, as 1000km of downriver Danube, flowing through Serbia, Romania, and Bulgaria, is showing obvious signs of lowered water levels. A heavily trafficked waterway, the lack of depth already severely limits the downriver progression of vessels with drafts greater than 1.70 meters. And, as with all these examples, the ecological ramifications to the flora and fauna of these bodies of water, including the Danube, shall be far more unforgiving than they shall be to humans affected by it.
The rivers of Britain
While not a specific body of water, Britain, being where Urban Times is located, seemed an interesting hydrological region to include. Due to increasing water demands, record temperatures in certain locations—most extremely in the region of Cumbria, England, where the temperatures have had the hottest average since record-keeping began 353 years ago—and drought, many rivers on the isle of Great Britain are at risk of losing 80% of their flow during the summer months. It is ironic that the country that modernized and championed the sport of rowing is now losing its rivers at such an alarming pace.
The Aral Sea
If Lake Chad’s receding waters produce an aesthetic of verdant necrosis, the Aral Sea produces an aesthetic of complete and utter sterility, invoking an air of barren Martian landscape, from the dust of the once sea-bottom to the rust on the stranded ships. There is an awe to be had when a ship sits alone, isolated in the middle of what is essentially a desert; and, considering the long and crucial history humans have had with marine technology and water navigation, whether it was coursing up and down the Nile, exploring the Mediterranean and Aegean, or circumnavigating the Earth by traversing the vast expanses of endless oceans, for one to see a ship stranded on land, miles from water, is not merely ironic, but perhaps the pinnacle of human irony. Primarily caused by the diverting of source river water for agricultural irrigation by the Soviet Union, usage of the rivers over the years has only increased, and the near-future fate of the Aral Sea is all but secured. In Soviet Russia, sea don’t flood you with water; you flood sea with land. I wish the joke were funnier.
All of these examples listed are primarily caused by human over-utilization of fresh surface water, and with the population still growing and over 7 billion, there is almost no chance these hydrological features shall return to their once normal levels. Hopefully we may learn from these examples and attempt to prevent these happenings from befalling other rivers and lakes throughout the world.