"We pray to God to give us water."  The Chilean lake that turned into a desert

The Penuelas Reservoir in Chile has been the main source of water for the city of Valparaiso for twenty years, accumulating enough water to fill 38,000 Olympic pools. Now, there are only two pools left, writes Reuters.

A huge expanse of dry, cracked land that was once the lake bed is full of skeletons of fish and animals desperate for water.

Amid a 13-year historical drought, rainfall levels have dropped dramatically in Chile. Higher air temperatures have also caused the snow in the Andes, once a vital source of water in the spring and summer, to melt faster or turn directly into steam.

“We pray to God to give us water,” said Amanda Carrasco, a 54-year-old woman who lives near Penuelas Reservoir and remembers a time when the lake was full of fishermen. “It simply came to our notice then. There was less water before, but not like now. “

A huge expanse of dry, cracked land that was once the lake bed is full of skeletons of fish and animals desperate for water. Photo: Profimedia Images

The reservoir – once reliable in winter, but now at historic lows, needs rainfall, said Jose Luis Murillo, CEO of ESVAL, the water supply company in Valparaiso.

“Basically, what we have is just a puddle,” he said, adding that the city is now based on rivers. “This is especially important if you consider that a few decades ago, the Penuelas Reservoir was the only source of water for Valparaiso.”

Behind the problem, academic studies have found, is a global shift in climate patterns that exacerbates natural weather cycles.

Pacific low-pressure storms normally discharge rainfall over Chile during the winter, supplying aquifers and covering the Andes with snow.

However, global warming off the coast of Chile, which is preventing storms from intensifying, has been exacerbated by rising global sea temperatures, according to a global study of sea temperatures and rainfall. Meanwhile, the depletion of the Antarctic ozone layer and greenhouse gases is exacerbating weather patterns that pull storms away from Chile, according to a study of weather-affecting variables in Antarctica.

An analysis of tree rings from 400 years ago shows how rare the current drought is, said Duncan Christie, a researcher at the Center for Climate and Resilience in Chile. “It’s totally unmatched in duration or intensity.”

He said that this means that the Andes – whom he called the country’s “water towers” – do not have a chance to replenish their water supplies, which means that as the snow melted in the spring, it was much more a little water to fill the aquifers.

Miguel Lagos, a civil engineer and hydrological specialist, traveled to measure the snow cover near Laguna Negra station in central Chile, about 50 kilometers (31 miles) east of Santiago – part of a process to estimate the water supply. summer.

“It was nothing,” he told Reuters. “There was so little rainfall and such hot conditions that the snow melted in the same winter.”

The upper layers of snow melted faster or turned directly into steam.

“If it doesn’t rain this year, we won’t be left with anything. The animals are getting weaker and weaker and dying every day, ”says Segundo Aballay, an animal breeder from the Chilean village of Montenegro.

Unfortunately for agricultural workers like Aballay, researchers at the University of Chile predict that the country will have 30% less water in the next 30 years, based on mathematical models and historical data.

“What we call a drought today will become the norm,” Lagos said.

In Laguna de Aculeo, another dry lake south of Santiago, local camping manager Francisco Martinez mentioned hundreds of people coming to the area by kayak or swimming.

Now the rusty dikes and old boats are in a barren landscape. A strange island in the middle of what was once water rises above the dust.

“There is no water now, there is a desert,” Martinez told Reuters. “Animals are dying and there is nothing left to do here.”

Editor: RK

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