New research based on historical and geologic data from the past 100,000 years indicate that Lake Victoria, the world’s largest tropical freshwater lake, could dry up in the next 500 years because of changes in temperature and rainfall.
Tens of millions of people in Rwanda, Uganda, Burundi, Tanzania, and Kenya depend on Lake Victoria for fishing, irrigation, drinking water, and electricity generation. Lake Victoria is also the source of the While Nile, one of the tributaries of the Nile River, on which more than 250 million people rely in Egypt, Sudan, South Sudan, Ethiopia, and Uganda.
Lake Victoria has completely dried up at least three times in the past 100,000 years.
Making long-term predictions of rainfall is not an exact science, but the researchers’ model shows that rainfall cannot decline to below 75 percent of current amounts or the lake will dry up again.
It may take 500 years for Lake Victoria to dry up, but the impact on countries bordering the lake would begin much sooner. Uganda would lose one of its primary sources of electricity generation. The White Nile, should it dramatically decrease in levels or dry up entirely, would have downriver effects on the Nile, which relies on the White Nile to sustain itself during the dry season. Port cities around Lake Victoria could lose access to the water in as little as 100 years, and Kenya could be completely cut off in 400 years, raising existing tensions with Uganda over fishing rights as the fishing range continues to shrink.
As the human population in this region grows, more and more people will rely on the lake, as average temperatures in the region increase and rainfall decreases because of climate change.