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Lake Titicaca at dangerously low level | Peru and Bolivia

Tuesday, March 29, 2011 · Category Environment · comments 1

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Lake Titicaca is a lake located on the border of Peru and Bolivia. At a height of some 3,811 m above sea level, it is the highest commercially navigable lake in the world. By volume of water, it is also the largest lake in South America.

Lake Titicaca and the influence of environmental changes

Since 2000 Lake Titicaca has experienced constantly receding water levels. Between April and November 2009 alone the water level has sunk by 81 cm and has now reached the lowest level since 1949. This drop is caused by shortened raining seasons and the melting of glaciers feeding the lake.

Evaporation blamed on global warming has reduced Lake Titicaca, one of the world's highest navigable lakes, to its lowest level since 1949. Diminished rainfall and a rise in solar radiation have in the past four years led to critically low water levels that now threaten fish spawning areas and plant life.

Lake Titicaca evaporating?

Jorge Ernesto Espinoza told ATB television that South America's largest lake is receding by 2 to 3 centimetres a week. The lake is an 8,400 square kilometre oasis on an arid high plain an hour's drive from the Bolivian capital, La Paz.  About 2.6 million people depend on the lake for their sustenance. The Titicaca Authority says 95 per cent of the lake's inflow is now evaporating. One reason is that the area's rainy season has been reduced from six to three months, said Felix Trujillo, chief of Bolivia's National Meterological and Hydrological Service.

The drought has prompted water rationing in some Bolivian cities. Environment Minister Rene Orellana said Bolivia needs $US1 billion ($A1.08 billion) over the next seven years to build reservoirs that will guarantee an adequate water supply.

The legends surrounding Lake Titicaca

According to legend, this lake gave birth to the Inca civilization. Before the Incas, the lake and its islands were holy for the Aymará Indians, whose civilization was centered at the Tiahuanaco, now a complex of ruins on the Bolivian side of Titicaca but once a revered temple site with notably advanced irrigation techniques. Geologically, Titicaca's origins are disputed, although it was likely a glacial lake. Maverick scientists claim it had a volcanic start; a century ago, Titicaca was popularly believed to be an immense mountain top crater. A few diehards today stick to the notion that the lake was part of a massive river system from the Pacific Ocean.

Indian legend says the sun god had his children, Manco Capac and his sisterconsort Mama OcIlo, spring from the frigid waters of the lake to found Cuzco and the beginning of the Inca dynasty. Later, during the Spanish Conquest, the lake allegedly became a secret depository for the empire's gold. Among the items supposedly buried on the lake's bottom is Inca Huascar's gold chain weighing 2,000 kilos and stored in Koricancha - the Temple of the Sun in Cuzco - until loyal Indians threw it into the lake to prevent it from falling into Spanish hands.

Related articles: "Machu Picchu, Peru | The controversy around it's 100th anniversary discovery" & "The Inca trial to Machu Picchu, Peru"

 

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