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Climate Change and Lake Poopó Water Levels, Bolivia

18.7S 67W

March 21st, 2013 Category: Climate Change, Lakes, Rivers

Bolivia – March 20th, 2013

Lake Poopó is a large saline lake located in a shallow depression in the Altiplano Mountains in Bolivia at an altitude of approximately 3,700 metres. The lake receives most of its water from the Desaguadero River which flows from Lake Titicaca at the north end of the Altiplano. Here, the water flowing in from the river appears darker than the bright green waters of the rest of the lake.

Since the Lake Poopó lacks any major outlet and has a mean depth of no more than 3 m, its surface area varies greatly. Scientists have recently done studies to determine whether the variability in water level is strongly connected to the influx of water from Lake Titicaca (visible in the full image). By analyzing satellite data and climate fields over a ten year period, it was discovered that over the time span of 2000-2009 a great part of the variability of the Poopó system originated from geographic sources other than Lake Titicaca.

Possible alternative causes include climate change inducing increased temperatures and greater evaporation rates along the Altiplano; increased glacier and snow melting over the Andes Cordillera; and a potential increased anthropogenic water use (such as irrigation, minery, etc.) throughout the path of the Desaguadero River (which connects lakes Titicaca and Poopó). This change in the hydrology of this region could lead to a collapse of water supplies and endanger the already fragile Poopó system as well as the regional socioeconomic system, which closely depends upon it (click here for more information).

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