Ecological features such as natural lakes exist due to a delicate balance that has been achieved over time. The result is a fragile aquatic ecosystem that is susceptible to numerous negative influences.
The most immediate impact of water diversion is habitat loss. Different species of plant and animals occupy different “zones” of a lake ecosystem. As the water level is diminished, the zones change, pushing many species out. These impacts occur both within the lake and at its shore, where the riparian habitat is often devastated.
Once these impacts occur, they can be difficult, if not impossible, to repair, particularly in today’s society where negative impacts on the environment are pervasive. It is true that the environment can be resilient. Lakes, wetlands, and forests can absorb and recover from certain negative impacts. However, as we continually put pressure on environmental features such as lakes, we can overwhelm that natural capacity to recover.
Lake ecosystems face incredible pressure from our society, including, air pollution, polluted runoff from industry and household use of chemicals, invasion of non-native species, and development projects like water diversion. All of these impacts can hit simultaneously and overwhelm a lake’s natural capacity to recover.
Diversion may seem innocuous. Hey, it’s just taking a little bit of water, right? However, that stress on the aquatic ecosystem has both a direct negative impact and an indirect negative impact as it is only one of a myriad of stresses human beings are placing on the resource.