|Located in Kazakhstan, Central Asia, Lake Balkhash is replenished from the Ili River catchment area, most of which is located in northwestern China. The lake is a very important resource for the surrounding population. Water from the lake and its tributary rivers is used for irrigation as well as municipal and industrial purposes, including supplying the water needs of the Balkhash Copper Melting Plant.|
While fish from the lake are an important food source, artificially low water prices have encouraged excessive use and waste of lake water. The United Nations has warned that Lake Balkhash, which is the second largest lake in Central Asia after the Aral Sea, could dry up if current trends are not reversed.
These two satellite images reveal an alarming drop in the lake's water levels in just over twenty years. Smaller, neighboring lakes, to the southeast of Balkhash, have become detached from the main water body; they have dramatically decreased in size and appear to be drying up.
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