Lake Titicaca, lying on the border between Peru and Bolivia, is the largest alpine lake in the world. Bigger than the state of Delaware, the lake is slow to respond to human pressures because of its huge volume. However, long term human and environmental disturbances around it are now threatening the value of this unique lake. That’s not good news for the thousands of people who depend on the lake for water, food, and tourism.
As the towns and cities that surround the lake grow, water contamination is increasing, reducing the lake’s renowned water quality. Agriculture, urban development, and mining are taking their toll. A 2011 United Nations report found that the lake is contaminated with heavy metals such as cadmium, arsenic, and lead. Waste from grazing livestock expansion is also depositing nutrients in the lake, increasing nuisance aquatic plants, reducing water clarity, and sucking up oxygen.
What’s in store for the future of Lake Titicaca? New laws protecting the lake are being passed, but change is slow because laws are difficult to enforce. Renewed concerns, both in neighboring countries as well as internationally, are slowly bringing attention to the importance of this alpine treasure.
Read more at Alaska Dispatch.
Image credit: NASA Earth Observatory.