6.3 Down to the Last Drop

Explore the impact of human activity on water resources.

  • Explore the consequences of human actions on water resources. 
  • Examine the health impacts of availability to clean water. 

Can human actions alter water resources?

Step 1: Go to the ArcGIS Online map, Down to the Last Drop, and explore it. 

Step 2: Examine the recent view of the Aral Sea in Central Asia.

Step 3: With the Details pane visible, click the button, Show Content of Map.

Step 4: Click the checkbox to the left of the layer name, Aral Sea, 2000 (image) & 1960 (black outline).

Step 5: The image is from 2000, and the outline shows the 1960 extent of the sea before Humans began to alter water flow to the Aral Sea.

Where are other lakes and rivers that are drying up due to human actions?

Step 6: Click the Bookmarks button. Select one of the other location bookmarks for a closer examination. 

Step 7: Click the map marker to view detailed information about human alterations to this water resource.

  • What human events have caused changes in water resources?
  • Droughts and changes in rainfall patterns have caused natural changes in water resources.

Why is the water to the Aral Sea Decreasing?

Step 8: Select the Bookmark, Aral Sea Region.

  • Do both rivers reach the Aral Sea? (Zoom in and out if needed.)

Step 9: Turn on the layer, Aral Sea Watershed Dams.

Step 10: Turn on the layer, Irrigated Lands in Aral Watershed.

  • Do dams or canals have the most significant impact?
  • What factors could influence the placement of the dams and canals?

How would the Aral Sea drying up affect the surrounding areas?

Step 11: Turn on the layer, Aral Sea Dust impact. Zoom out to see the impacted areas.

Step 12: Increased dust and salt storms sometimes send 923dust 500 km from the Aral Sea.

  • The dry bed of the salty sea has no vegetation and creates dust and salt storms in the region.
  • What might be the environmental, economic, and human health effects on the surrounding areas?

How has human alteration affected the Colorado River?

Step 13: Press the button, Bookmarks. Select the Colorado River bookmark.

Step 14: Turn on the layer, Lower Colorado River Basin Dams and Canals. 

Step 15: Zoom in and out to identify human alterations and causes. 

There are several similarities and differences between the effects of human alterations on the Colorado River and the Aral Sea. Both have dams and canals, and both fail to reach the ocean. The Colorado River supplies both agriculture and urban areas. And the rivers of the Aral Sea are diverted primarily for agricultural areas.


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Applied World Regional Geography by R. Adam Dastrup, MA, GISP is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-NonCommercial-ShareAlike 4.0 International License, except where otherwise noted.

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