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Lake Chapala water quality


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Good morning from the rainy SF Bay Area!  My wife and I are contemplating a move to Ajijic in the future and have questions regarding the  water quality of the Lake.  What is the current and near future quality of Lake Chapala?  Every photo I have seen gives it a green tint.  Is there a waste water treatment plant Lakeside or is the sewer discharging into the Lake?  I understand it is fed only by rainwater and constantly being utilized as a water supply for Guadalajara.  Would appreciate any info concerning the near and long term efforts to insure better quality.  Currently, it appears nobody swims in it or ears fish caught locally.  Is this true?  Thanks for any education regarding this issue.

 

JC

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1 hour ago, Johnny C said:

Good morning from the rainy SF Bay Area!  My wife and I are contemplating a move to Ajijic in the future and have questions regarding the  water quality of the Lake.  What is the current and near future quality of Lake Chapala?  Every photo I have seen gives it a green tint.  Is there a waste water treatment plant Lakeside or is the sewer discharging into the Lake?  I understand it is fed only by rainwater and constantly being utilized as a water supply for Guadalajara.  Would appreciate any info concerning the near and long term efforts to insure better quality.  Currently, it appears nobody swims in it or ears fish caught locally.  Is this true?  Thanks for any education regarding this issue.

 

JC

People swim in it and eat the fish and it's much less polluted than San Francisco Bay and many other California beach locations. The lake is very shallow so doesn't look like pristine ocean water especially after a windy day with lots of waves stirring up the bottom. It's the largest fresh water lake in Mexico. There are numerous "scientific" studies that verify it's efficacy but shortly you will here from members on this board that the lake is awful and the fish should not be eaten. 

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The only problem is heavy metals washed down into the lake from the Lerma Basin.  The heavy metals are picked up by the lirio, are found in the sediment and are in the livers of the fish.  If you don't eat lirio or fish guts you will be just fine.  The coliform level  is at 25 ppm.  US standards are 50 ppm and Mexican standards at 100 ppm for a warning of don't swim in the water.

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Thanks for all the feedback!  Our situation is getting worse up here.  So much rainfall, the water treatment plants are overwhelmed.  Many backups and overflows.  I would not swim in the Bay or ocean here.  Understand the shallow waters there. So much misinformation and fake news always about Mexico.  I have traveled all of Baja and the mainland from Acapulco north on motorcycle with few problems.  Hope to come down soon for a visit.  Thanks again.  

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And some heavy metals are totally natural in all bodies of water.Scientific fish studies have been done here ,especially on the bottom feeding carp, and they are good to go but a bit of warning to the very young,old and pregnant women not to partake more than once/week. That's the same warning in Alberta for the North and South Saskatchewan Rivers

 

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2 minutes ago, Johnny C said:

Thanks for all the feedback!  Our situation is getting worse up here.  So much rainfall, the water treatment plants are overwhelmed.  Many backups and overflows.  I would not swim in the Bay or ocean here.  Understand the shallow waters there. So much misinformation and fake news always about Mexico.  I have traveled all of Baja and the mainland from Acapulco north on motorcycle with few problems.  Hope to come down soon for a visit.  Thanks again.  

Lots of bikers and moto eventos around here. A friend of mine belongs to a Mexican club.

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Coupl`a addtional points of info.  The lake is mostly fed by the River Lerma, not rainwater. Largest watershed in Mexico, 4 states.  The chemicals and heavy metals come from hundreds of farms all over the watershed.  Farmers here still heavily use pesticides.  Because of much more rain than usual over the last 2 years, the lake is higher and the percentage of pesticides to water is much lower than past years.  Also, because of heavy growth of reeds in the now wet shallowest areas, fish populations have burgeoned and lake fish are sold in local tianguis.  Lots of people eating lake fish and no one getting sick.  Lots of herons eating fish and no sick fish!   (Say the fish doctors.)   Lots of children swimming in the lake, a wonderful sight!  Also, almost no gas powered boats, so no gas going into the lake.  But, say some locals, you must beware the lake dragons!

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The larger towns have sewage treatment plants but they are often overwhelmed so their over flow goes to the lake Likewise many individuals home and small developments leak a lot of sewage into the lake. The water will never be clear again like it was in the old days. It is usually greenish or brownish-not something I want to swim in. I've been looking for an appealing place to swim in it for 8 years and haven't found one yet.

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We tell our visitors the lake is best enjoyed from a short distance.  Much of the turbidity is probably the result of lack of erosion control from both farms and construction.  If it wasn't for GDL the lake would probably have no outflow at all and the water quality would be worse.  The badly polluted Lerma flows into it but there are no outflows other than irrigation along the shoreline and the foot or so of depth used by GDL.

Evaporation is the big water consumer and inflow is sharply curtailed by upstream irrigators and their dams, mostly located to the SE of the east end of the lake.

There are a ton of swimming pools and it is a relatively short drive to the Pacific beaches.

 

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The reason it looks brown and murky, close up, is that it is fairly shallow and the loose sediment bottom is clearly visible from the surface.  It is contaminated like nearly all of bodies of water are in the US these days.  I have heard it stated that it is cleaner than 70 percent of beaches in the US.  Now that the lake is much fuller with water than it has been for several years.  Fuller means the contaminants and naturally ocurring metals in the lake are less concentrated, hence a more healthy lake!  

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 Studies of Lake Chapala water compared to some of the Southern Calif. beaches  show Lake Chapala  water cleaner than many Southern Calif. beaches.  Would I swim in it, no, but drinking water here comes from wells and is very good. Poor water quality in Mexico often comes from old leaking water lines that degrade the water.

The color of lake Chapala water relates to it's muddy bottom and shallow depth, nothing else. if the water color were aqua blue my lake view property would be worth 50K -75K more!

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20 hours ago, cedros said:

The larger towns have sewage treatment plants but they are often overwhelmed so their over flow goes to the lake Likewise many individuals home and small developments leak a lot of sewage into the lake. The water will never be clear again like it was in the old days. It is usually greenish or brownish-not something I want to swim in. I've been looking for an appealing place to swim in it for 8 years and haven't found one yet.

When I first came to Lakeside and was looking at some waterfront properties in San Juan, I came across a sewer manhole cover that was gushing raw sewage and the stream created was flowing down a side ally and directly into the lake.  Needless to say the smell was choice that day along the front street paralleling the lake.  At that moment I decided swimming in it was not for me, nor eating anything out of it.  But who needs to swim in it when we have the wonderful hot springs in San Juan Cosala and Manzanillo about 3 hours away.

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A lot of the different lake colours depend on the camera used. A smartphone, or entry level camera, does not filter the shot. SLR cameras nearly always have at least a polarizing filter lens which makes water and sky photos much more vibrant and blue. The biggest problem for the lake is that the water is cold. I have swam in much colder waters in my youth, but 72 degree F water is hard to get used to now. Probably the same problem in San Francisco? They start to wear wetsuits starting at San Diego and up. The sewage problem is minimized by the fact there are no large cities dumping into the lake or all the way up to its feeding rivers. Guadalajara has a huge sewage problem, but currently undergoing massive upgrades. They used to have a river of toxic crud running all the way into the Pacific.

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As an aside, SLR cameras never have polarizing filters built in. SLR cameras use multiple lenses, to which one can optionally attach any filter, including a polarizer, though the average shooter never will. The color differences between cameras are a result of how the software in the camera or how the photographer post-processes the shots. 

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As long as we're discussing the lake and it's properties, one thing that always puzzled me, the haze the often hangs over the lake. When you head toward Guad etc and can see the lake from an elevation there is often a haze. Some say it's evaporation, some say it's pollution, I was never comfortable with the answers given. I lived next to the lake and at that level it wasn't all that noticeable, but go up the hill a ways and?

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56 minutes ago, ficklepie said:

As an aside, SLR cameras never have polarizing filters built in. SLR cameras use multiple lenses, to which one can optionally attach any filter, including a polarizer, though the average shooter never will. The color differences between cameras are a result of how the software in the camera or how the photographer post-processes the shots. 

I disagree. The usual practice, for a long long time, is to add at least a polarizing filter to protect the lens of the camera. A lot cheaper to replace a scratched filter than a scratched lens. Many people are returning to optical lenses over software - they are so inexpensive now, used on Ebay etc. The test for me is sepia - I have never been satisfied with a software treatment over a glass lens.

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29 minutes ago, giltner68 said:

As long as we're discussing the lake and it's properties, one thing that always puzzled me, the haze the often hangs over the lake. When you head toward Guad etc and can see the lake from an elevation there is often a haze. Some say it's evaporation, some say it's pollution, I was never comfortable with the answers given. I lived next to the lake and at that level it wasn't all that noticeable, but go up the hill a ways and?

Two things actually but not necessarily simultaneously. Evaporation and burning off of cornfields.

 

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2 hours ago, giltner68 said:

As long as we're discussing the lake and it's properties, one thing that always puzzled me, the haze the often hangs over the lake. When you head toward Guad etc and can see the lake from an elevation there is often a haze. Some say it's evaporation, some say it's pollution, I was never comfortable with the answers given. I lived next to the lake and at that level it wasn't all that noticeable, but go up the hill a ways and?

The haze is caused by smoke from the burning off the dry materials on farm fields and of garbage. Not evaporation as it doesn't produce a haze. It is evident at lake level also. I lived most of my life on large lakes and have never seen a haze from evaporation-only from burning or dust.

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On ‎2‎/‎17‎/‎2017 at 11:32 AM, Johnny C said:

Thanks for all the feedback!  Our situation is getting worse up here.  So much rainfall, the water treatment plants are overwhelmed.  Many backups and overflows.  I would not swim in the Bay or ocean here.  Understand the shallow waters there. So much misinformation and fake news always about Mexico.  I have traveled all of Baja and the mainland from Acapulco north on motorcycle with few problems.  Hope to come down soon for a visit.  Thanks again.  

There's a couple of local motorcycle clubs that have weekly rides so bring yours with you.

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