Tourism

Water level in Peru’s Huacachina lagoon drops to worrying levels

By Jose Rosales Vargas for El Comercio

If nothing is done to ensure that the lagoon can fill up again, one of Ica’s most popular tourist attractions could try up altogether.

Water level in Peru’s Huacachina lagoon drops to worrying levels

(Photo: Jose Rosales Vargas)

The banks of the Huacachina lagoon have been progressively and dangerously covered in a fine and hot layer of desert sand. This has generated a worrying decrease in the water level and in the beautiful green color of both the water and the vegetation around it. 


According to conservationist Félix Quinteros Ferreyra, the drastic reduction in water levels, which yesterday caused the lagoon to shrink to just 1.5 meters of depth and recede to 8 meters from the edge of the bank, is threatening to dry up the lagoon altogether and make one of Ica’s principal tourist attractions all but disappear.


“The indifference and lack of planning on the part of the municipal authority [who is responsible for the protection, conservation and care of the lagoon] to create a permanent project to naturally refill the lagoon is putting the body of water in serious risk,” Quinteros said. 


Both the exploitation of the aquifer and the drilling of wells over the last 25 years have made it so that the lagoon is no longer able to refill naturally and, as has happened with other similar bodies of water, it is on a course to dry up permanently.


“The maintainance of the water level in the lagoon has been contingent on the decisions of the Municipal Potable Water Company of Ica (Empica), which has suspended the service of pumping water every time that the municipal authority has failed to pay,” Quinteros said.


It is now necessary to reactivate the Rincón Grande project, which was designed to help naturally refill the lagoon with a natural spring located behind one of the dunes of Huacachina, Quinteros added.


The plan was originally developed in 1997 when the lagoon was faced with a similar – though not as serious – threat, according to Quinteros. 


The project allowed the lagoon to not only regain much of the natural and medicinal qualities of its water, but also to refill the lagoon to about 2 meters, which then covered its banks. 


The ex-president of tourist services for the Francisco Massa commune said that the lack of municipal authority in the area has allowed up to 56 dune buggies to have a damaging environmental impact on the lagoon and its beaches and to fill the area with excess amounts of sand and cause serious noise pollution. 


Huacachina hosts 200,000 local and international tourists each year.