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The “Master Plan”

The proposed Master Plan for Lake Atitlán wastewater processing and drinking water. From Amigos del Lago Atitlán.

The proposed Master Plan for Lake Atitlán wastewater processing and drinking water. From Amigos del Lago Atitlán.

A 2015 Master Plan for drinking water supply and wastewater treatment in the Lake Atitlán basin proposes new treatment plants and a giant sewage pipeline, connecting all the towns around the lake, which will export sewage out of the basin.

Technically, the Master Plan is sound and if executed effectively it would save the lake. It draws on successful restoration efforts in Italy (Lake Bolsena and Lake Garda), Germany (Lake Constance), and the U.S. (Lake Tahoe and Lake Washington).

Here’s more information about the sewage pipeline plan and the Master Plan from Amigos del Lago Atitlán.

The plan is controversial, though. Implementation would entail all the challenges and complexities associated with large infrastructure projects in a corrupt, third-world country. Many environmentalists and indigenous groups do not believe the pipeline would be built with respect for the rights of indigenous communities, and they will continue to campaign against it. Also, the plan would require massive investment in a country where the majority of all budgets are lost to corruption. As of December 2016, of the 7 new treatment plants slated to be built in 2016, only 1 has been built. Commitment to implementation appears to be low.

This is a long-term plan, with no guarantee that it can be implemented effectively before it is too late to save Lake Atitlán. Thus, we must press ahead urgently with remediation and prevention efforts.