Bolivia has officially declared that their second-largest lake, Lake Poopó, has disappeared. While long-term water diversion for mining and agricultural use has been cited as a partial culprit, an El Niño-driven drought, along with the disappearance of the Andean glaciers that fed the lake, are being blamed for the lake’s disappearance.
While Lake Poopó’s size historically sees large fluctuations due to it’s relative shallowness, this is the first time it has essentially disappeared, now being at only 2% of it’s former maximum water level of 5 meters (16.4 feet). A recent study showed that the water the lake received in 2013 wasn’t enough to maintain it’s equilibrium, short by 161 billion liters (42.5 billion gallons).
Officials have estimated that roughly half of the lake’s human population have left Poopó’s shores: with no water left, the local fishing villages have no livelihood, and biologists say 75 species of birds have abandoned the lake. 3,250 residents have received humanitarian aid due to the crisis, according to local officials.
Glaciologist Dirk Hoffman has been studying the effect of fossil-fuel-related climate change on Bolivia’s glaciers, and is not optimistic, saying "This is a picture of the future of climate change." The Florida Institute of Technology released a study in 2010, warning of a potential long-term drought in the Andean highlands, resulting from a combination of climate change and continued water diversion being conducted for mining interests.
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