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lake conditions

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lake conditions

looking to see if anyone has a current condition of the lake.......i will be in san pedro in 2 weeks?

Lake Atitlan
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for Lake Atitlan
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1. Re: lake conditions

I am a full time resident of Lake Atitlan, and can report that the lake is in excellent condition. You can swim, scuba, kayak, and enjoy the lake in all its wonder.

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2. Re: lake conditions

We've been in Pana since early January and have been swimming in the lake near hotel Buenaventura (near the awful green towers) and it has been fine. Lots of kids swimming at the public beach. Things appear ok at this point; when it warms up more, who knows, but there does seem to be some serious actions being planned to help cure the lake.

Seattle, Washington
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698 posts
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3. Re: lake conditions

Just back from a couple days at a friend's cottage near Sta. Cruz. The lake looks pretty much normal (i.e., gorgeous) to me. Unfortunately, "normal" also includes seeing raw sewage flowing straight into the water at Sta. Cruz and around Panajachel. I wouldn't put my face in the water anywhere near either place, but it should be a lot cleaner away from shore or at some place less populated. A reliable hotelier also reported being told by a government agency not to serve fish from the lake to his guests, but I have no idea on what basis they made that recommendation.

Los Angeles...
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4. Re: lake conditions

I plan to be in Lake Atitlan in August and am concerned about conditions in the lake. For me, a vacation is not a vacation without beautiful water to get into daily. Can someone tell me if the algae bloom or sewage is taking away attraction of the lake for a swimmer. I was at Lake Titicaca in Peru a few years back and it was quite disgusting.

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5. Re: lake conditions

I live in a lakefront home and our water system, like most people who live on the lake, pumps water directly from the lake. So, I don't swim in it but do take a shower or two in it everyday. I wash clothes, dishes, etc. but drink/cook with bottled water. I see no algae so far this year. The water is a little discolored right now due to lots of rain. They finally got the Korean bridge open again. The road to San Pedro was blocked by mudslides for a day or so last weekend but should be open now. Mudslides can block roads all over at this time of year. The condition of the lake? Fine, as far as I can tell.

Lake Atitlan
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for Lake Atitlan
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6. Re: lake conditions

This is scientific, but for anyone who really wants hard information.

Expedition Atitlán 2010 Preliminary Report 1


Preliminary Report


Members of the Todos por el Lago science committee established at the workshop in March 2009 agreed that it is imperative to initiate several lines of research as well as take some immediate measures to prevent further deterioration of the Atitlán water quality. A research planning proposal was funded by the US National Science Foundation and eventually expanded into a research expedition thanks to the additional support of Guatemalan organizations Amigos del Lago and Todos por el Lago. The expedition was coordinated jointly by University researchers from Guatemala, the United States and the Czech Republic. The expedition had the following objectives:

During the expedition:

(1) Survey the of physical, chemical and biological conditions of the lake,

(2) Conduct a rapid assessment of the littoral (nearshore) zone of the lake,

(3) Collect and process water samples for cyanotoxin analysis, a major health threat to water users in urban and non-urban areas,

(4) Assess the watershed (streams, areas of erosion, farming and forestered areas etc.) for potential delivery of nutrients to the lake,

(5) Assess the wastewater treatment capabilities,

(6) Engage the local people living in the Atitan watershed and Guatemala city community members by holding workshops and informal, evening discussions about water issues at the lake,

(7) Create a place-based learning and training experience at Lake Atitlán for Guatemalan students and representatives of government agencies (n=18) to learn basic water sampling and monitoring techniques from a variety of disciplines including limnology, environmental policy, sanitary engineering, wetland ecology, toxicology, and watershed management, and

(8) Conduct a preliminary analysis of expedition data and develop a dialogue for future collaboration and training for United States and Guatemalan students at Lake Atitlán and long-term research programs where University research partners are conducting research such as Lake Tahoe, Crater Lake, and Castle Lake (USA).

After the expedition:

Use the obtained information and established contacts to:

(1) Design lake monitoring scheme that include agency and university representatives that will provide quantitative information as to the status of Lake Atitlán and its physical, chemical, and biological, and ecological condition;

(2) Provide a guiding framework for efficient nutrient management at the watershed scale from urban and nonurban environments,

(3) Prepare joint research proposals across institutions and countries to assist in capacity development within Guatemala, specifically at Lake Atitlán.


Based on the observations, preliminary water analyses, and the nutrient addition bioassays, the lake at this stage can be characterized as being in a transition from oligo- to mesotrophic. It means that the lake is still very healthy, but the eutrophication process has been accelerated in the last years and all possible measures should be taken to slow this process as much as possible. The physical structure for this time of year was similar to previous collections made in the late 1960’s/ early 1970’s (Weiss 1971) with the thermocline at approximately 23-30 meters depending on the locations sampled. The waters to 100 meters were well mixed with dissolved oxygen levels greater in the epilimnion and descending values in the hypolimnion. Water clarity as measured by a Secchi disk from 3 comparable stations (Weiss locations 3, D, and G) indicated no difference in water clarity between Apr 1968 (15.03.0) and 2010 (14.80.7).

Phytoplankton of the whole lake has quite similar species composition dominated in April by a dinoflagellate Ceratium cf. hirundinella and a diatom, Fragilaria crotonensis, one species of golden-brown alga, Dinobryon

Expedition Atitlán 2010 Preliminary Report 2

is a codominant. These species are regularly distributed to approximately 20-30 meters depth with lower concentrations at greater depth. Special attention was paid to the bloom-forming cyanobacteria. Of those Lyngbya robusta, the species responsible for the 2008 and 2009 blooms was found occurring sporadically in the whole reservoir, including the lower layers in the centre of the lake. The filaments are in a good physiological state. Lyngbya. robusta was found also in both bays, but again only in a very low quantity. Hormogonia (resting stages were consistgently found). The solitary colonies of Microcystis occur in the whole lake. It seems to be a special, morphologically distinct population related to M. aeruginosa – M. botrys. In contrast to Lyngbya, it was found only in planktonic samples and in higher quantity in the bay of San Juan.

At this time, the nutrient, specifically nitrogen (N) and phosphorus (P), concentrations in water were quite low and the bioassay samples showed a clear response to treatments of N + P. This means that the addition of both N and P is needed to promote the growth of current phytoplankton community. Interestingly, phytoplankton responded more to N than N + P below 20 m depth. This may be linked to increased phosphorus availability below the thermocline, where untreated wastewater was released into the lake and natural levels increase due to thermal stratification and biological accumulation.

The benthic invertebrate samples were mainly composed of amphipods (Amphipoda: Hyalellidae) and snails (Gastropoda). Snails were found mainly in shallow samples, but amphipods were abundant to 250 meters. No organisms were found in a sample collected from a 300 m depth. These findings suggest that benthic invertebrate density in the lake is high, but that species richness is low. Examinations from 9 locations around the lake suggested that fish did exhibited external parasites in the stomach cavity and gill covers. It is unclear however if parasites are impacting fish growth or if they are an issue for consumption. It should be noted that parasites are common in warmwater fishes under in warm, productive lakes.

Sediment cores were successfully retrieved from the deepest part of the lake (320 m). The cores exhibited dark black surface material in the top 3 cm (with no smell of hydrogen sulfide, indicating that the conditions are probably not anoxic) followed by the transition to typical gley type composition at about 3-4 cm sediment depth. A majority of the core texture appeared to be a relatively fine silty-clay.

Nearshore zone surveys indicated qualitative differences between littoral (near shore) impacted and non-impacted sites were clear. Sites adjacent to agricultural fields or houses were defined as impacted, while sites near shores with relatively undisturbed vegetation were defined as non-imacted. Highly impacted sites typically had a wide species diversity of submersed macrophytes with high levels of biomass. In some locations, monocultures of Hydrilla or Potamogeton spp. were present, but it was not rare to find Egeria or other species cohabitating the same areas. Highest levels of macrophyte diversity and biomass occurred in the highest impact sites. Conversely, non-impacted sites typically had less attached algae, fewer macrophyte species (usually Potamogeton pectinatus and/or Chara sp.) and it was not rare to find an abundance of gastropods in these areas. We only have tissue analyzed for phosphorus at this time and the results show that tissue P content of tul from impacted sites is 40% higher than from unimpacted sites. This shows that a) there are differences in P input at different locations and b) tul plants are capable of accumulating more P in areas with higher P input.

7. Re: lake conditions

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