MNN Galleries

7 lakes and rivers that are drying up

By: Shea Gunther on July 27, 2011, 11:45 a.m.
a topographical map of the sierra nevada mountains and owens lake area

Photo: GlennGould/Flickr

6 of 9

Owens Lake

Until the beginning of the 1900s, Owens Lake in the eastern Sierra Nevada was a robust body of water up to 12 miles long and 8 miles wide with an average depth of 23 to 50 feet. In 1913, the waters that fed into Owens Lake were diverted by the Los Angeles Department of Water and Power (LADWP) into the Los Angeles Aqueduct. Water levels quickly dropped in Owens Lake until they reached current levels — mostly dried up. Today, Owens Lake is a shallow (just three feet deep), much-reduced shadow of its pre-diversion self. LADWP shallowly floods 27 square miles of dried-up lake bed to reduce the number of dust storms, which can cause respiratory problems for nearby residents.