Monday, October 19, 2009

The Lake. The Lirio. The Pollution. And The Kayaking Quest To Know More. Oct. 2009

The Lake

Ajijic and Chapala from the air - photo by Gordon the Flying Gringo
Taken from the Amigos del Lago website.

Lake Chapala is a victim of 3 major problems:
The Lirio
The Polution
and - ergo - The Politics. . .

The Lirio.

More lirio.

From Amigos del Lago:

Water hyacinths, called 'lirio' in Spanish, are invasive plants that float on Lake Chapala and sometimes interfere with fishing, aquatic life, and recreational uses.  Lirio is an invasive weed found on many lakes in the world.  It thrives on bodies of water that are polluted.  The good news is that lirio absorbs heavy metals often found in polluted waters and makes them less available for fish and other water creatures to feed on.

The bad news is that lirio is hard to control since it can double in quantity every 15 days!  What would be the 'best' way to control the lirio is a controversial topic.  It can be:
  • Removed and hauled away.
  • Chopped up and left to decay
  • Harvested for fertilizer, compost, or animal feed
  • Sprayed with chemicals to dry it up or kill it, or
  • Eaten by natural predators introduced into the lake
Some of these methods create additional problems, while others are quite expensive to implement.

Ideally, all units of government would cooperate to implement a long-term strategy to reduce lirio by reducing the pollution going into the lake.  The Amigos del Lago, an organization, advocates using natural predators, such as weevils, to control the lirio.  They oppose using glyphosate (a Monsanto herbicide) and got a federal injunction against its use on Lake Chapala in 2006.  Nevertheless, the National Water Commission used glyphosate that year, when the lake was more than 30% covered by this invasive plant.

The Pollution
From the Amigos del Lago website.

According to Mexico’s National Water Commission (CNA), only 8% of the water in Lake Chapala is considered “acceptable.” The remaining 92% is either moderately or highly polluted.

Highly Contaminated

Moderately Polluted


Lake Chapala’s water contains high levels of E. Coli bacteria, from domestic waste. It also contains agricultural chemicals such as DDT, along with heavy metals that include copper, lead, chromium, zinc, and arsenic from industrial sites. One study of the discharges of nine water plants emptying directly into the lake found phosphorus levels 74 times higher than the USEPA standard.

The Kayaking Quest To Know More

Two residents of the Lake Chapala area, Xill Fessenden and Linda Richards - both artists and ecologists - have mounted an ambitious quest to gain more knowledge about the lake
and its environs.  They have begun a 'round-the-lake expedition by kayak and
will be documenting  and photographing their findings. 

They initially put in at 6 Corners in Ajijic and have completed legs, up to
and including, San Luis Soyatlan on the south shore. 
Weather permitting, they are due to put back in in San Luis this week
and travel for 2 days, camping overnight, in order to complete the next leg.
More to follow. . .

Mexican Trialrunner will be following them and posting their adventures 
as well as their findings when completed.  This is an awesome undertaking and they are to be congratulated for doing this.
Safe journey, ladies!

Stay tuned!  More information will be following. 
In the meantime,
please see the Amigos del Lago website for more information
and the results of their very hard work and dedication.


  1. Sadly Mexico is years behind in worrying about pollution. We are just now seeing a small change in the habits of tossing out garbage out of moving vehicles.....I'm down to one garbage bag a week on our frontage road.
    They are moving although too slowly for our likes, but at least they are not going backward.
    There is a small reservoir on the autopista from GDL to Morelia and it is interesting to see the attack of the green monster through out the years,as it is completely covered now. It appears that they are still using the water from underneath the goo.

  2. And how is it that some say that the lake is safe to swim in in most places? Doesn't make sense to me.