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Ili River Entering Lake Balqash, Kazakhstan – October 10th, 2010

46.2N 74.3E

October 10th, 2010 Category: Image of the day, Lakes, Rivers

Kazakhstan - August 29th, 2010

The waters of Lake Balqash, in southeastern Kazakhstan, appear bright blue in this late summer image. Green sediments are present in the southearn reaches of the lake, while the northeastern part appears slightly darker in color.

The green sediments or algae are entering the lake from the Ili River, on its southeastern shores. The land around the riverbanks shows green vegetation, in constrast to the surrounding tan, arid landscape. Due to the influx of fresh water from the river, the western end of the lake is fresh while the eastern end is salty.

Lake Balqash, the Qapshaghay Bogeni Reservoir and Lake Issyk Kul

46.2N 74.3E

November 17th, 2009 Category: Lakes, Rivers

Kazakhstan - October 5th, 2009

Kazakhstan - October 5th, 2009

Lake Balqash (center) and the smaller Qapshaghay Bogeni Reservoir, both in southeastern Kazakhstan, and the deep Lake Issyk Kul, in Kyrgyzstan, show varying shades of blue waters.

The waters of Lake Balqash appear turquoise to the east and a slightly lighter blue with a tan tint to the west. This difference could be from sediments draining into the lake from the Ili River (visible at the western end of the lake along the eastern shores), from differences in depth, or from differences in salinity, as the eastern half of the lake is salty while its western half is fresh.

Further south, the Qapshaghay Bogeni Reservoir also has a turquoise color. The Tian Shan Mountains to its south, crested with snow, mark the border between Kazakhstan and Kyrgyzstan. South of the first ridge is Lake Issyk Kul , which is deeper and darker blue than its neighbors.

Rivers Draining into Lake Balqash, Kazakhstan – September 11th, 2009

46.5N 75.0E

September 11th, 2009 Category: Lakes, Rivers

Kazakhstan - August 31st, 2009

Kazakhstan - August 31st, 2009

Eastern end

Eastern end

Western end

Western end

The waters of Lake Balqash, in southeastern Kazakhstan, appear bright turquoise. It is the second largest lake in Central Asia after the Aral Sea, and it is part of the same endorheic basin as the Caspian and Aral seas.

The two close-ups focus on the eastern and western ends of the lake. The western half of the lake is fresh water, while the eastern half is saline. The eastern half is also almost twice as deep.

The close-up of the western end also shows the Ili River, the chief river of the seven that drain into Lake Balqash. The Ili is fed from precipitation (largely vernal snowmelt) from the mountains of China’s Xinjiang region. It is 1,439 km (894 mi) long, 815 km (506 mi) of which are in Kazakhstan. Flowing into Lake Balqash it forms a large delta with vast wetland regions of lakes, marshes and jungle-like vegetation.

The close-up of the eastern end, on the other hand, shows (from left to right) the Karatal, Aksu and Lepsi Rivers draining into Lake Balqash. The Karatal is the second-largest of the rivers that empty into the lake. It rises in the Dzungarian Alatau Mountains near the border of Kazakhstan and China.

Lake Balqash After the Spring Thaw – May 9th, 2009

May 9th, 2009 Category: Image of the day, Lakes

Kazakhstan - May 8th, 2009

Kazakhstan - May 8th, 2009

The waters of Lake Balqash, in southeastern Kazakhstan, are bluish in color since the spring thaw;  the lake is usually frozen throughout the winter from around November to mid-April.

The eastern half of the lake is salty, while its western half is fresh. It is very shallow, especially in the east, particularly since the 1970s with the diversion of water from the Ili for irrigation and hydroelectric power generation.

Lake Balqash has become increasingly saline and polluted through industrial activity, especially copper mining and smelting. There are a number of shipyards located at the mouth of the rivers flowing into the lake.

Lake Issyk Kul is also visible in the lower right corner. It is deeper than Lake Balqash and appears dark blue. Unlike its neighbor, it also never freezes, even during the coldest winter months when the surrounding peaks of the Tian Shan Mountains in eastern Kyrgyzstan are capped by snow.

Ice on Lake Balqash, Kazakhstan

April 17th, 2009 Category: Lakes

Kazakhstan - April 9th, 2009

Kazakhstan - April 9th, 2009

Lake Balqash is located in southeastern Kazakhstan, about 341 m (about 1,120 ft) above sea level. Its maximum width is about 71 km (about 44 mi), and its area is 18,200 sq km (7,030 sq mi).

It has the shape of an irregular crescent, extending northeast for about one-third of the total length of 605 km (376 mi) and then in a generally eastern direction. Here, its central section is covered with ice, which is gradually breaking apart and melting as warmer weather arrives.

The Ili River, the principal affluent, enters Lake Balqash near its southern extremity. Here, the river can be seen discharging sediments into the lake, giving its waters a greenish hue.

Other affluents enter the lake from the southeast and from the northeast. The southern shores of the lake, which has no outlet, are labyrinths of islands, peninsulas, and strips of shallow water.

The narrow Uzun-Aral Strait joins the eastern and western halves of the lake, which are physically distinct. The eastern half is deeper and its waters are more saline than those of the western half.

Extending south from Lake Balqash is the Semirechye Plain. The land west of the lake consists of clay plains, which have been made fertile by irrigation and produces cotton, grapes, and a variety of other fruits.

The lake’s level has declined by more than 2 m (more than 6 ft) since 1970, when the Qapshaghay Dam on the Ili River was completed. This has caused pollution levels in the lake to increase, harming plants and wildlife. Environmentalists are concerned that Lake Balqash could experience shrinking problems similar to those of the Aral Sea.