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Lake Victoria

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For other places with the same name, see Lake Victoria (disambiguation).
Lake Victoria

Location Africa
Coordinates
1S 33ECoordinates: 1S 33E
Primary inflows Kagera River
Primary
outflows
White Nile (river) (known as the "Victoria Nile" as it
flows out of the lake)
Catchment area 184,000 km
2
(71,000 sq mi)
238,900 km
2
(92,200 sq mi) basin
Basin countries Tanzania
Uganda
Kenya
Max. length 337 km (209 mi)
Max. width 250 km (160 mi)
Surface area 68,800 km
2
(26,600 sq mi)
Average depth 40 m (130 ft)
Max. depth 83 m (272 ft)
Water volume 2,750 km
3
(660 cu mi)
Shore length
1
3,440 km (2,140 mi)
Surface elevation 1,133 m (3,717 ft)
Islands 84 (Ssese Islands, Uganda)
Settlements Bukoba, Tanzania
Mwanza, Tanzania
Musoma, Tanzania
Kisumu, Kenya
Kendu Bay, Kenya
Homa Bay, Kenya
Kampala, Uganda
Entebbe, Uganda
Jinja, Uganda
1
Shore length is not a well-defined measure.
Lake Victoria (Nam Lolwe in Luo; "Nalubaale" in Luganda; Victoria Nyanza in Bantu
[1]
) is one of
the African Great Lakes. The lake was named after Queen Victoria by the explorer John Hanning Speke,
who was the first European to discover it, and which he did alone in 1858 while on an expedition
with Richard Francis Burton to locate the source of the Nile River.
[2]

[3]

With a surface area of 68,800 square kilometres (26,600 sq mi), Lake Victoria is Africas largest lake by
area, and it is the largest tropical lake in the world. Lake Victoria is the world's 2nd largest freshwater lake
by surface area; only Lake Superior in North America is larger. In terms of its volume, Lake Victoria is the
world's ninth largest continental lake, and it contains about 2,750 cubic kilometers (2.2 billion acre-feet) of
water.
Lake Victoria receives its water primarily from direct precipitation and thousands of small streams. The
largest stream flowing into this lake is theKagera River, the mouth of which lies on the lake's western shore.
Lake Victoria is drained by the Nile River (generally known as the Victoria Nile, part of the White Nile)
near Jinja, Uganda, on the lake's northern shore.
[4]

Lake Victoria occupies a shallow depression in Africa and has a maximum depth of 84 m (276 ft) and an
average depth of 40 m (130 ft).
[5]
Itscatchment area covers 184,000 square kilometers (71,040 sq mi). The
lake has a shoreline of 4,828 km (3,000 mi), with islands constituting 3.7% of this length,
[6]
and is divided
among three countries: Kenya (6% or 4,100 km
2
or 1,600 sq mi), Uganda (45% or 31,000 km
2
or
12,000 sq mi) andTanzania (49% or 33,700 km
2
or 13,000 sq mi).
[7]

Contents
[hide]
1 Geology
2 Hydrology and limnology
3 Fisheries
4 Environmental issues
o 4.1 Fishing
o 4.2 Water hyacinth invasion
o 4.3 Pollution
5 History and exploration
6 Nalubaale Dam
7 Transport
8 See also
9 References
10 External links
Geology[edit]


Landsat 7 imagery of Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria has, during its geological history, gone through changes ranging from its present shallow
depression, through to what may have been a series of much smaller lakes.
[6]
Geological cores taken from
its bottom show Lake Victoria has dried up completely at least three times since it formed.
[8]
These drying
cycles are probably related to past ice ages, which were times when precipitation declined globally.
[8]
Lake
Victoria last dried out 17,300 years ago, and it refilled beginning about 14,700 years ago. Geologically,
Lake Victoria is relatively young about 400,000 years old and it formed when westward-flowing rivers
were dammed by an upthrown crustal block.
[8]



Lake Victoria and the Great Rift Valley
This geological history probably contributed to the dramatic cichlid speciation that characterises its ecology,
as well as that of other African Great Lakes,
[9]
although some researchers dispute this, arguing while Lake
Victoria was at its lowest between 18,000 and 14,000 years ago, and it dried out at least once during that
time, there is no evidence of remnant ponds or marshes persisting within the desiccated basin. If such
features existed, then they would have been small, shallow, turbid, and/or saline, and therefore markedly
different from the lake to which today's species are adapted.
[10]

The shallowness of Lake Victoria, its limited river inflow, and its large surface area compared to its volume
make it vulnerable to the effects of climate changes.
Hydrology and limnology[edit]
Lake Victoria receives 80% of its water from direct precipitation.
[6]
Average evaporation on the lake is
between 2.0 and 2.2 metres (6.6 and 7.2 ft) per year, almost double the precipitation of riparian areas.
[11]
In
the Kenya Sector, the main influent rivers are the Sio, Nzoia, Yala, Nyando, Sondu Miriu,Mogusi and
the Migori. Combined, these rivers contribute far more water to the lake than does the largest single
inflowing river, the Kagera, which enters the lake from the west.
[12]
The lake outflows into the White
Nile and the Katonga River, both part of the upper Nile river system.
The lake exhibits eutrophic conditions. In 19901991, oxygen concentrations in the mixed layer were
higher than in 19601961, with nearly continuous oxygen supersaturation in surface waters. Oxygen
concentrations in hypolimnetic waters (i.e. the layer of water that lies below the thermocline, is
noncirculating, and remains perpetually cold) were lower in 19901991 for a longer period than in 1960
1961, with values of less than 1 mg per litre (< 0.4 gr/cu ft) occurring in water as shallow as 40 metres
(130 ft) compared with a shallowest occurrence of greater than 50 metres (160 ft) in 1961. The changes in
oxygenation are considered consistent with measurements of higher algal biomass and
productivity.
[13]
These changes have arisen for multiple reasons: successive burning within its basin,
[14]
soot
and ash from which has been deposited over the lake's wide area; from increased nutrient inflows via
rivers,
[15]
and from increased pollution associated with settlement along its shores.
The extinction of cichlids in the genus Haplochromis has also been blamed on the lake's eutrophication.
The fertility of tropical waters depends on the rate at which nutrients can be brought into solution. The
influent rivers of Lake Victoria provide few nutrients to the lake in relation to its size. Because of this, most
of Lake Victoria's nutrients are thought to be locked up in lake-bottom deposits.
[6][16]
By itself, this vegetative
matter decays slowly. Animal flesh decays considerably faster, however, so the fertility of the lake is
dependent on the rate at which these nutrients can be taken up by fish and other organisms.
[16]
There is
little doubt that Haplochromis played an important role in returning detritus and plankton back into
solution.
[17][18][19]
With some 80% of Haplochromis species feeding off detritus, and equally capable of
feeding off one another, they represented a tight, internal recycling system, moving nutrients and biomass
both vertically and horizontally through the water column, and even out of the lake via predation by humans
and terrestrial animals.
[17]
The removal of Haplochromis, however, may have contributed to the increasing
frequency of algal blooms,
[15][18][19]
which may in turn be responsible for mass fish kills.
[15]

Fisheries[edit]
Main article: Fishing on Lake Victoria
Lake Victoria supports Africa's largest inland fishery.
[20]

Environmental issues[edit]
A number of environmental issues are associated with Lake Victoria.
Fishing[edit]
The introduction of exotic fish species, especially the Nile perch, has altered the freshwater ecosystem of
the lake and driven several hundred species of native cichlids to near or total extinction.
Water hyacinth invasion[edit]
Main article: Water hyacinth in Lake Victoria
The Water hyacinth has become a major invasive plant species in Lake Victoria. The release of large
amounts of untreated wastewater (sewage), agricultural and industrial runoff directly into Lake Victoria over
the past 30 years, has greatly increased the nutrient levels of nitrogen and phosphorus in the lake
triggering massive growth of exotic Water hyacinth, which colonised the lake in the late 1990s.
[21][22]
This
invasive weed creates anoxic (total depletion of oxygen levels) conditions in the lake inhibiting
decomposing plant material, raising toxicity and disease levels to both fish and people. At the same time
the plants mat or web creates a barrier for boats and ferries to maneuver, impedes access to the
shoreline, interferes with hydroelectric power generation, and blocks the intake of water for
industries.
[21][23][24][25][26]
On the flip side, Water hyacinth mats can potentially have a positive effect on fish
life in that they create a barrier to overfishing and allow for fish growth, there has even been the
reappearance of some fish species thought to have been extinct in recent years. However, the overall
effects of the Water hyacinth are still unknown.
[23][27]

Growth of the Water hyacinth in Lake Victoria has been tracked since 1993, reaching its maxima biomass
in 1997 and then declining again by the end of 2001.
[23]
Greater growth was observed in the northern part
of the lake, in relatively protected areas, which may be linked to current and weather patterns and could
also be due to the climate and water conditions, which are more suitable to the plants growth (as there are
large urban areas to the north end of the lake, in Uganda).
[26]
The invasive weed was first attempted to be
controlled by hand, removed manually from the lake, however, re-growth occurred quickly. Public
awareness exercises were also conducted.
[26]
More recently, measures have been used such as the
introduction of natural insect predators, including two different Water hyacinth weevils and large harvesting
and chopping boats, which seem to be much more effective in eliminating the Water hyacinth.
[26][28][29][30]

Other factors which may have contributed to the decline of the Water hyacinth in Lake Victoria include
varying weather patterns, such as El Nino during the last few months of 1997 and first six months of 1998
bringing with it higher levels of water in the lake and thus dislodging the plants. Heavy winds and rains
along with their subsequent waves may have also damaged the plants during this same time frame. The
plants may not have been destroyed however, simply moved to another location. Additionally, the water
quality and nutrient supply, temperature and other environmental factors could have played a role. Overall
the timing of decline could be linked to all of these factors and perhaps together, in combination, they were
more effective than any one deterrent would have been by itself.
[26]
The Water hyacinth is in remission and
this trend could be permanent if control efforts are continued.
[31]

Pollution[edit]


Population density around Lake Victoria
Pollution of Lake Victoria is mainly due to discharge of raw sewage into the lake, dumping of domestic and
industrial waste, and fertiliser and chemicals from farms.
The Lake Victoria basin is one of the most densely populated rural areas in the world. Its shores are dotted
with cities and towns, including Kisumu,Kisii, and Homa Bay in Kenya; Kampala, Jinja,
and Entebbe in Uganda; and Bukoba, Mwanza and Msoma in Tanzania. These cities and towns also are
home to many factories that discharge their waste directly into the lake and its influent rivers. These urban
areas also discharge raw sewage into the river, increasing its eutrophication that in turn is helping to
sustain the invasive water hyacinth.
[32]

History and exploration[edit]


Bismack Rock
The first recorded information about Lake Victoria comes from Arab traders plying the inland routes in
search of gold, ivory, other precious commodities, and slaves. An excellent map, known as the Al
Idrisi map from the calligrapher who developed it and dated from the 1160s, clearly depicts an accurate
representation of Lake Victoria, and attributes it as the source of the Nile.


The lake as it is visible from the shores of the Speke Resort in Kampala, Uganda
The lake was first sighted by a European in 1858 when the British explorer John Hanning Speke reached
its southern shore while on his journey with Richard Francis Burton to explore central Africa and locate the
Great Lakes. Believing he had found the source of the Nile on seeing this "vast expanse of open water" for
the first time, Speke named the lake after Queen Victoria. Burton, who had been recovering from illness at
the time and resting further south on the shores of Lake Tanganyika, was outraged that Speke claimed to
have proved his discovery to have been the true source of the Nile, which Burton regarded as still
unsettled. A very public quarrel ensued, which not only sparked a great deal of intense debate within the
scientific community of the day, but also much interest by other explorers keen to either confirm or refute
Speke's discovery.
[33]

In the past, the famous British explorer and missionary David Livingstone failed in his attempt to verify
Speke's discovery, instead pushing too far west and entering the River Congo system
instead.
[34]
Ultimately, the Welsh-American explorer Henry Morton Stanley, on an expedition funded by
the New York Herald newspaper, confirmed the truth of Speke's discovery, circumnavigating the lake and
reporting the great outflow at Ripon Falls on the lake's northern shore.


Local languages around lake Victoria
Nalubaale Dam[edit]
Main article: Nalubaale Power Station
The only outflow for Lake Victoria is at Jinja, Uganda, where it forms the White Nile. The water 12,000
years ago drained over a natural rock weir. In 1952, British colonial engineers blasted out the weir and
reservoir. A standard for mimicking the old rate of outflow called the "agreed curve" was established,
setting the maximum flow rate at 300 to 1,700 cubic metres per second (3922,224 cu yd/sec) depending
on the lake's water level.
In 2002, Uganda completed a second hydroelectric complex in the area, the Kiira Power Station,
with World Bank assistance. By 2006, the water levels in Lake Victoria had reached an 80-year low, and
Daniel Kull, an independent hydrologist living in Nairobi, Kenya, calculated that Uganda was releasing
about twice as much water as is allowed under the agreement,
[35]
and was primarily responsible for recent
drops in the lake's level.
Transport[edit]
Main article: Lake Victoria ferries
Since the 1900s, Lake Victoria ferries have been an important means of transport
between Uganda, Tanzania and Kenya. The main ports on the lake
are Kisumu, Mwanza, Bukoba, Entebbe, Port Bell and Jinja. Until Kenyan independence in 1963, the
fastest and most modern ferry, MV Victoria, was designated a Royal Mail Ship. In 1966, train ferry services
between Kenya and Tanzania were established with the introduction of MV Uhuru and MV Umoja. The
ferry MV Bukoba sank in the lake on May 21, 1996 with a loss of between 800 and 1,000 lives, making it
one of Africa's worst maritime disasters.