Irrigation water use driving desiccation of Earth’s endorheic lakes and seas

Michael L. Wine

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

3 Scopus citations


Through 2019, the Caspian Sea excluded, the majority (54–60%) of Earth’s irrigation-impacted endorheic lake and sea (ELS) areal extent has been lost in basins that contain as much as 20% of global irrigated agricultural land. Estimates of irrigated agriculture contribution to ELS desiccation based on a steady-state water balance equation for endorheic basins generally agree that this contribution is on the order of 70–90% at the global scale. However, large uncertainties or errors in attribution–as large as 100%–are observed with respect to particular ELS, suggesting that attributions based on a single irrigated agriculture dataset, should be treated cautiously. The observed areal contraction in ELS attributed to irrigated agriculture corresponds to an estimated one-third decrease in ELS volume, excluding the Caspian Sea. Such volumetric decrease is expected to at least double solute concentration in 40–47% of Earth’s ELS.

Original languageEnglish
JournalAustralian Journal of Water Resources
StateAccepted/In press - 1 Jan 2022
Externally publishedYes


  • Aral Sea Syndrome
  • Tragedy of the Commons
  • evaporative consumption
  • human domination
  • irrigated agriculture

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Water Science and Technology


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