How Clean Is Lake Chapala?

I’m back on a lake at long last. Lake Chapala.

Let me explain.

I grew up on the shores of Lake Champlain in Vermont, one of the largest lakes in the U.S. other than the Great Lakes. Lake Champlain was and is beautiful and relatively pristine. I remember days of pleasure on and in the lake, swimming, fishing, wading, picnicking, and camping.

Lake Chapala reminds me in some ways of those early days of my life. Relatively little beachfront with actual sandy beaches. More marsh and shrubland.

When we first thought about moving to the Chapala, we read that the lake was seriously polluted, and getting worse. And visiting the malecons and the few beaches, we rarely saw people swimming. Lots of families on the shores, but rarely anyone in the water. Boats, yes. People, no.

So we weren’t sure.

Now, I’m happy to say, the issue is settled. In a report titled Lake Chapala: State of the Lake 2018, the authors rely on the analysis of Dr. Todd Stong, a prominent and widely-respected civil engineer. Turns out that Lake Chapala is in quite good environmental condition. Safe for swimming. Safe for fishing. And the Lake is a major source of water for Guadalajara.

Lake Chapala is slowly, very slowly, disappearing. Indeed, it is already quite shallow. As the report notes, the average depth is fourteen feet. Each year adds an increment of sediment to the bottom of the Lake. Over the course of thousands of years, the Lake will turn to marsh and finally land.

The report is quite enlightening. I recommend reading it. It’s brief and factual. So, have no fear. The Lake is just fine.

4 thoughts on “How Clean Is Lake Chapala?”

  1. For those who stand at the lake edge it may look trashy and dirty. The trash is due to lack of government cleaning. The dirty look is due to wave action which stirs up the muddy bottom out to 20-50 ft. The water 100-500 ft out from the shore is quite clear. Over 3 million persons in Guadalajara are provided water daily from the lake with rather normal processing (sedimentation, sand filtering and chlorination).

    1. Thank you, Dr. Stong. I’d wondered about that. Glad to hear of the clarity further out. And good to see that at least in Chapala, the city is making an effort to clear the beach debris. Also looking forward to the return of the pelicans (at least I think they are pelicans–those huge white birds that populated the water here in Chapala until a couple of months ago. Bonita recently took a boat excursion from Mezcala to the Isla del Presidio and noted that the birds had all moved there.) I did get a chuckle from the report that the lakeshore communities have well water while Guadalajara uses the Lake.

  2. Thanks for the info on the lake. I was searching for the info on the web. I also read your blogs and found the information very useful. Looking at February 2019 to come down for a vacation.

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