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Lake Chapala

Lake Chapala

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Lake Chapala is Mexico
Mexico
The United Mexican States , commonly known as Mexico , is a federal constitutional republic in North America. It is bordered on the north by the United States; on the south and west by the Pacific Ocean; on the southeast by Guatemala, Belize, and the Caribbean Sea; and on the east by the Gulf of...

's largest freshwater lake
Lake
A lake is a body of relatively still fresh or salt water of considerable size, localized in a basin, that is surrounded by land. Lakes are inland and not part of the ocean and therefore are distinct from lagoons, and are larger and deeper than ponds. Lakes can be contrasted with rivers or streams,...

. It lies in the municipalities of Chapala, Jocotepec
Jocotepec
Jocotepec is a town and municipality, in Jalisco in central-western Mexico. The municipality covers an area of 384.36 km². As of 2005, the municipality had a total population of 37,972.-History:...

 , Poncitlán
Poncitlán
Poncitlán is a town and municipality, in Jalisco in central-western Mexico. The municipality covers an area of 672.31 km².As of 2005, the municipality had a total population of 43,817.-Place Names:...

, and Jamay, in Jalisco
Jalisco
Jalisco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Guadalajara.It is one of the more important states...

, and in Venustiano Carranza and Cojumatlán de Régules, in Michoacán
Michoacán
Michoacán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Michoacán de Ocampo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia...

.

Geographic Features


It is located at 20°20′N 103°00′W, 45 km southeast of Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. With a population of 1,564,514 it is Mexico's second most populous municipality...

, and is situated on the border between the states
States of Mexico
The United Mexican States is a federal republic formed by 32 federal entities .According to the Constitution of 1917, the states of the federation are free and sovereign. Each state has their own congress and constitution, while the Federal District has only limited autonomy with a local Congress...

 of Jalisco
Jalisco
Jalisco officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Jalisco is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is located in Western Mexico and divided in 125 municipalities and its capital city is Guadalajara.It is one of the more important states...

 and Michoacán
Michoacán
Michoacán officially Estado Libre y Soberano de Michoacán de Ocampo is one of the 31 states which, with the Federal District, comprise the 32 Federal Entities of Mexico. It is divided in 113 municipalities and its capital city is Morelia...

, at 1,524 metres(5000 feet) above sea level. Its approximate dimensions are 80 km (49.7 mi) from east to west and averages 12.5 km(7.8 miles) from north to south, and covers an approximate area of 1100 km² (424.7 sq mi).

It is a shallow lake, with a mean depth of 4.5 metres(14.9 feet) and a maximum of 10.5.(34 feet)

It is fed by the Río Lerma, Río Zula, Río Huaracha, and Río Duero rivers, and drained by the Rio Grande de Santiago
Río Grande de Santiago
The Río Grande de Santiago is one of the longest rivers in Mexico, measuring up long. The river begins at Lake Chapala and continues roughly north-west through the Sierra Madre Occidental, receiving the Verde, Juchipila, Bolaños, and other tributaries...

. The water then flows northwest into the Pacific Ocean.

Islands


The lake also contains two small islands, Isla de los Alacranes
Isla de los Alacranes
Isla de los Alacranes is an island found in Lake Chapala, in the Mexican state of Jalisco.It is so called because it is shaped as a scorpion. Many Mexican people use the word "alacrán" for the smaller, most venomous species of scorpion, which are very common in Mexico, while the word "escorpión"...

 (the largest of the two), Isla Mezcala and a third very small island next to Isla Mezcala called La Isla Menor.

Ecology


The city Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara, Jalisco
Guadalajara is the capital of the Mexican state of Jalisco, and the seat of the municipality of Guadalajara. The city is located in the central region of Jalisco in the western-pacific area of Mexico. With a population of 1,564,514 it is Mexico's second most populous municipality...

, has relied on Lake Chapala as a principal source of water since the 1950s.
Shortly after, a few consecutive years of poor rainfall dramatically decreased the water level of the Lake. The level rebounded until 1979, when Lake Chapala's water level rapidly began decreasing due to increases in urban water consumption.

Erosion due to deforestation along the Lake as well as the Lerma River
Lerma River
The Lerma Santiago River is Mexico's second longest river. It is a river in west-central Mexico that begins in Mexican Plateau at an altitude over above sea level, and ends where it empties into Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest lake, near Guadalajara, Jalisco...

 has led to increased sedimentation of the Lake, also contributing to loss of lake depth. The shrinking depth has also raised the Lake's average temperature, resulting in increased evaporation.

Simultaneously, the waters of Lake Chapala are polluted by municipal, industrial and agricultural wastes, coming primarily from the Lerma River
Lerma River
The Lerma Santiago River is Mexico's second longest river. It is a river in west-central Mexico that begins in Mexican Plateau at an altitude over above sea level, and ends where it empties into Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest lake, near Guadalajara, Jalisco...

. The increased presence of nutrients from the pollution combined with the warmer water has been a boon to an invasive species of Water Hyacinth
Water hyacinth
The seven species of water hyacinth comprise the genus Eichhornia. Water hyacinth are a free-floating perennial aquatic plant native to tropical and sub-tropical South America. With broad, thick, glossy, ovate leaves, water hyacinth may rise above the surface of the water as much as 1 meter in...

. The water hyacinth further exacerbates the problem of a shrinking lake depth through its own consumption of the water.

The increase in water pollution coupled with the increased presence of water hyacinth has had devastating effects on the ecology of the lake. Fish stock has decreased dramatically and some endemic species (e.g. a fish colloquially known as 'white fish') are on the verge of extinction. Contaminated fish stock has also posed a serious threat to the health and livelihoods of people who depend on the fish for food and their livelihoods.

The drop in the Lake's water level has uncovered political issues that had been hidden for many years. Its fast decay has raised concern in the surrounding areas and in the scientific community. It was the Global Nature Fund
Global Nature Fund
Global Nature Fund, established in 1998, is a private non-profit foundation with the stated goal of protecting the environment. It is headquartered in Radolfzell, Germany....

's "Threatened Lake of the Year" in 2004.

By 2007 and 2008, the level of Lake Chapala increased drastically, though the levels have yet to surpass the level in 1979, when the levels began a precipitous decline. Although it is still subject to agricultural, domestic, and industrial sources of contamination, the actual levels of hazardous materials has not been officially assessed with regularity.

In 2010 water level has remained high and quality has improved due to water treatment plants along the Lerma river, water has been approved since 2008 for human use.

Habitat


The lake is also a critical habitat for several species of migratory birds, such as the American White Pelican
American White Pelican
The American White Pelican is a large aquatic bird from the order Pelecaniformes. It breeds in interior North America, moving south and to the coasts, as far as Central America, in winter....

, and home to thousands of indigenous plants and animals.The Audubonistas de Laguna de Chapala holds an annual Audubon Society sponsored Christmas Bird Count. In 2006, some 117 species were identified and, in 2007, the count was 125.

Communities


There are numerous towns and cities along the coast of Lake Chapala, including Chapala, Jalisco, San Juan Cosala, Jalisco , Mezcala de la Asunción, Jalisco, Tizapan El Alto
Tizapan El Alto
Tizapan El Alto is a town and municipality, in Jalisco in central-western Mexico. The municipality covers an area of 273.32 km².As of 2005, the municipality had a total population of 19076....

 and Ocotlán, Jalisco.

In recent years, because of the benign prevailing climate and attractive scenery, a substantial colony of retirees, including many from the United States
United States
The United States of America is a federal constitutional republic comprising fifty states and a federal district...

 and Canada
Canada
Canada is a North American country consisting of ten provinces and three territories. Located in the northern part of the continent, it extends from the Atlantic Ocean in the east to the Pacific Ocean in the west, and northward into the Arctic Ocean...

, has established itself on the lake's shore, particularly in the town of Ajijic, Jalisco
Ajijic
Ajijic is a town about 3 miles from, and a part of, the municipality of Chapala, in the State of Jalisco, Mexico. Situated on the north shore of Lake Chapala, surrounded by mountains, Ajijic enjoys a moderate climate year round...

, located just west of the city of Chapala
Chapala
Chapala is a city and municipality in the central Mexican state of Jalisco, located on the north shore of Lake Chapala, Mexico's largest freshwater lake. According to the 2005 census, its population is 43,345 for the municipality.-Geography:...

.

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