Vanishing Lakes: Owens Lake

By Matthew C. Pace

Apr 14 2023

The drying of Owens Lake is a human-made catastrophe. In 1913, the river feeding Owens Lake was diverted into the Los Angeles Aqueduct, causing the salty lake to vanish by 1926. Today, the remaining dry alkaline salt flat is the largest single source of dust pollution in the United States, with high levels of carcinogenic cadmium, nickel, and arsenic. Once a major nesting site for migratory birds, the remnant wetland ecosystem of Owens Lake is kept alive by a series of wells which pump a small amount of water onto the salt flat.

Reheis, M. C. 2006. Owens (Dry) Lake, California: A Human-Induced Dust Problem. Impacts of Climate Change and Land Use in the Southwestern United States. U.S. Geological Survey.