Atitlan is a lake without a natural visible outlet, which classifies it as an endorheic basin. The contents of the load that enters the lake take up to 80 to 100 years to dissolve.
After years of contamination, the lake has presented signs of severe environmental stress. In 2009 satellite images from NASA showed that approximately 38% of its surface was affected by algae and cyanobacteria.
The lake is going from oligotrophic – crystalline and potable waters- to mesotrophic – turbid and green – and if this degradation continues it will go on to become an eutrophic lake impossible to recuperate.
The deepest 140 meters out of its 340, once had a healthy reading of 7 ml of oxygen. Now they no longer have any oxygen due to all the organic material that has accumulated at the bottom of the lake and is now decomposing and in a putrefying state. The lake has reached its maximum saturation level, and with the constant entry of sewage waters it is no longer given the opportunity to regenerate itself.
The lake has reached its maximum saturation level without an opportunity to recuperate its natural conditions by itself. The principal threats that must be addressed in short term are:
- Sewage water
- The use of the soil, which includes three principal factors: the expansion of the agricultural frontier, erosion, use of fertilizers, and use of agro chemicals.
- Solid waste