Wednesday, November 29, 2023

As Hidalgo lake dries up, farmers and fishermen lose vital water source

A lake in Hidalgo that is a key source of water for agriculture could dry up completely within a month, the National Water Commission (Conagua) has warned.

Located in the municipalities of Metztitlán and Eloxochitlán, the Laguna de Metztitlán has already lost 95% of its water due to drought and seepage.

Gregorio Badillo, head of ecology at the Metztitlán council, told the newspaper El Universal that a lack of rain last year and in the first two months of 2020 has had a severe impact on the lake.

The extremity of the situation came into sharp focus last week when local residents discovered thousands of dead fish. Badillo explained that 120 members of four cooperatives that farm fish in the lake had lost all of their stock — and with it their livelihoods.

The severe lack of water is also of serious concern to farmers in the region who source water from the lake for irrigation of crops such as beans and corn.

Marco Antonio Moreno Gaytán, an environmental activist and member of the Hidalgo Ecology Society, said that the situation is caused by drought linked to climate change. Rivers that feed into the Laguna de Metztitlán have also dried up, he said.

“This is painful. … It’s not just fish that are being lost but a lot of biodiversity. We thought that it [the lake] was never going to disappear but this is now a severe blow for all the ecosystems and agricultural activity,” Moreno said.

While shimmering water formerly extended across the lake’s 581 hectares, after prolonged drought farm animals can now graze and motorbikes can ride over the vast majority of the desiccated lakebed.

During a visit to the lake Monday, Conagua officials predicted that the Laguna de Metztitlán will lose its remaining water in a month, if not before.

The officials said that while 200 to 300 liters of water continue to flow into the lake per second, greater quantities of water are being lost due to percolation, or seepage. Water now covers no more than 30 hectares, or 5%, of the lakebed, they said.

Hidalgo Agriculture Secretary Carlos Muñiz Rodríguez acknowledged that the situation is “very critical” but explained that authorities remain hopeful that the lake will recover. However, he pointed out that the forecast for this year is not promising.

“We had the worst drought last year, not just in Hidalgo but across the entire country; only three states didn’t have the problem and according to Conagua, the drought will extend this year,” Muñiz said.

Source: El Universal (sp) 

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