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A lake is a body of water surrounded by land and located in a basin, separate from any river or other outlet that feeds or drains the lake. Lakes are land-based and do not belong in the ocean, yet they are part of the Earth’s water cycle, much like the much bigger seas. Lagoons, on the other hand, are often coastal areas of the ocean. Although there are no formal or scientific definitions, they are often larger and deeper than ponds, which are also on land. Rivers or streams, on the other hand, run in a channel on land, whereas lakes do not. Rivers and streams feed and drain the majority of lakes.
Natural lakes can be found in hilly places, rift zones, and areas where glaciers is still present. Other lakes can be found in endorheic basins or along the courses of mature rivers that have broadened into basins. Because of unstable drainage patterns left over from the previous Ice Age, there are many lakes in various places of the planet. Over geologic time spans, all lakes will gradually fill in with sediments or spill out of the basin in which they are contained.
Many lakes are man-made and built for industrial or agricultural reasons, hydroelectric power generation, or home water supply, as well as aesthetic, recreational, and other purposes.
The term lake derives from Middle English lake (‘lake, pond, waterway’), which comes from Old English lacu (‘pond, pool, stream’), which comes from Proto-Germanic *lak (‘pond, ditch, slow flowing stream’), which comes from the Proto-Indo-European root *le- (‘to leak, drain’). Dutch laak (‘lake, pond, ditch,’) Middle Low German lke (‘water pooled in a riverbed, puddle,’) as in de:Wolfslake, de:Butterlake, German Lache (‘pool, puddle,’) and Icelandic laekur (‘slow running stream’) are all synonyms. The English terms leak and leach are also related.
There is a lot of confusion concerning the difference between lakes and ponds, and there is no current universally agreed definition of either term across scientific fields or political boundaries. Lakes, for example, are water basins that are just a bigger version of a pond with wave action on the shoreline or where wind-induced turbulence plays a substantial role in mixing the water column, according to limnologists. Ponds aren’t fully excluded by any of these classifications, and they’re all tough to quantify. As a result, simple size-based classifications are increasingly being employed to distinguish ponds from lakes. Lakes are defined as bodies of water with minimum sizes ranging from 2 hectares (5 acres): 331 to 8 hectares (20 acres) (see also the definition of “pond”). Lakes were defined by Charles Elton, one of the founders of ecology, as waterbodies of 40 hectares (99 acres) or more. The word lake is also applied to a feature such as Lake Eyre, which is a dry basin most of the year but may fill up during periods of severe rainfall. Many lakes have names that finish with the word pond in general usage, and a smaller number of names that end with lake are, in fact, ponds in quasi-technical terms. “In Newfoundland, for example, almost every lake is referred to as a pond, but in Wisconsin, almost every pond is referred to as a lake,” according to one textbook.
According to one hydrology text, a “lake” is a body of water that has the following five characteristics:
- It partially or completely fills one or more basins connected by straits and maintains a consistent water level throughout (except for relatively short-lived variations caused by wind, varying ice cover, large inflows, etc.)
- Because there is no regular input of saltwater, the basins catch a significant part of the silt floating in the water (for this to happen they need to have a sufficiently small inflow-to-volume ratio)
- the area measured at the mean water level exceeds a certain limit (for instance, one hectare)
- Other hydrological articles have accepted or expanded on the others, with the exception of the seawater intrusion criteria.