Green Movement Against Green Water

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Using Green Infrastructure Strategies in the Lake Amatitlan Watershed to Promote Environmental Education in Guatemala


The most polluted lake in Central America is Amatitlan Lake. The lake receives its effluents from a largely urbanized watershed that extends 381 Km2. With more than half of Guatemala City situated within the lake’s watershed, polluted runoff and sewage constantly get deposited into the lake, turning it into a dead, eutrophic body of water with such high contamination ratings that it is comparable to a sewage tank. The city is comprised of dense development, informal settlements, sprawling communities, agricultural farms, and 30% of the country’s total industry. Most people living on in this watershed don’t imagine that the untreated domestic waste that they dump into the river is partly to blame for the catastrophic degradation of Lake Amatitlan. The thick green microcystin bacteria that thrives in the lake consumes the phosphorus and nitrogen-rich domestic sewage, reducing its photic zone from an original 10 meters of depth to just 1 meter. The banks of the deforested gullies throughout the watershed are being eroded away by torrential rivers throughout the watershed, which then carry enormous sediment loads into the lake, lowering its depth of at an alarming rate.

This research characterizes the watershed of the lake, looks at the contaminants and issues affecting it, evaluates remediation strategies currently being used and suggests alternative strategies based on ecological restoration design. These new strategies inspired by case studies of effective modern practices for filtration, remediation, management and environmental education. These contemporary practices will help inform how to apply specific strategies that will address the causes of pollution at its source. Additionally, the design of a reconstructed wetland near the lake will demonstrate how natural processes can be used to filter polluted effluents and provide habitat for underrepresented fauna and flora. This proposed wetland will become a park that provides an educational and aesthetically pleasing environment where people can enjoy nature and take part in an emerging green movement in Guatemala.

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