Low rainfall due to the weather phenomenon El Niño has been blamed for lake levels that are as much as six meters below normal in the Lagos de Montebello National Park in Chiapas.
The 6,000-hectare park, a UNESCO biosphere reserve near the Guatemala border, is a popular tourist attraction, with 59 colorful lakes that run the gamut from blue to turquoise to green, even to crystalline shades of red, brown, and gray.
This year, rocks and white sand that were under water in February can now be seen on the rims of the group of lakes called Cinco Lagos (Five Lakes).
In much of the park, water levels are one or two meters lower than usual, but the Cinco Lagos lakes have sunk as low as six meters below normal.
Tour guide Isaías García Sántiz said he has witnessed this drop since February. He hopes the rains will come soon to bring the lakes back to normal.
Park director Odetha Cervantes asserted that the decrease in water levels was due to meteorological factors, and not deforestation, as has happened in the past.
A forest fire in 1998 caused water levels at Lake Tziscao, on the border with Guatemala, to experience similar reductions.
“The Lagos de Montebello National Park has now recovered 100% of forest density, 50% of which was lost in the wildfire in 1998,” she said in order to clarify that the problem was El Niño, and not deforestation.
The park usually receives eight to nine months of rain a year, but precipitation has been scarce since February.
“This is one of the worst years I’ve seen,” said Amado, a resident of Cinco Lagos who offers boat tours to tourists. “There has been very little rain this season, and water levels are decreasing. This hasn’t happened to us before.”
A similar situation exists to the north in the Metzabok lagoon system, where precipitation has been much lower than normal.