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Lake Atitlán is Dying

Lake Atitlan, located in the western highlands of Guatemala is widely considered to be one of the most beautiful places on earth.  The Lonely Planet Guide Book describes it as ‘the closest thing to Eden on Earth’.  The shoreline and the surrounding mountains are home to the indigenous Kaqchikel and Tz’utujil Maya, whose ancient languages, customs, and traditions are still practiced today, and whose health and livelihoods are inextricably linked with the survival of Lake Atitlán.

The lake itself sits in an enormous volcanic caldera. With 50 square miles of surface area and an average depth of 220 meters it is an enormous body of water. Three volcanoes sit on or near its shores and the area has a perfect highland climate, beautiful flora and fauna and because of this, tourism is booming.

Due to the increases in tourism and the resulting expansion of agriculture and population, Lake Atitlán is becoming more contaminated every year. The crater has no outflow, so everything that flows in stays in. This includes wastewater from more than 20 towns and vast quantities of chemical fertilizer and pesticide. The lake is now so contaminated that it faces a real and imminent threat of ecological collapse, of death. Nobody knows for certain how many more years it can survive if sewage and chemicals continue to flow in at the present rate, but the point of no recovery could be just a few years away.  Doing nothing is not an option.

Problems

Death By Eutrophication. That’s what will happen to Lake Atitlán if nothing is done to save it.

Eutrophication, or depletion of oxygen, is caused by an excess of nutrients (nitrogen and phosphorus) that stimulates the overgrowth of algae in the lake. When the algae dies the resulting bacterial decomposition depletes the water of oxygen and it can no longer support life.

Read more about contamination of Lake Atitlán …

 

Solutions

There are a variety of proposals for reducing the level of contamination entering the lake. LAEIG has a variety of short term and long term ideas including bioremediation techniques and sustainable agriculture that can help right now. Read more details about the solutions that can save the lake here…

What is LAEIG?

The Lake Atitlán Environmental Interests Group is involved in a range of efforts to save the lake. We support  initiatives by different local groups and we bring people together – farmers, fishermen, environmentalists, community leaders, teachers, business owners, and volunteers from around the lake and beyond. We aim to be catalysts for collaboration, action, and environmental change.

Read more about our group here.

Read about our current projects.

Further Reading