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Expert questions common Lake Chapala ‘myths’

Now embarking on his 20th year of winter residency and volunteer work as an expert consultant and project supervisor concerning Lake Chapala environmental issues, retired civil engineer Todd Stong is sharing his knowledge to question what may be misconceptions about the state of Mexico’s largest natural water reservoir.

pg13aIn summary, he responds to five of what he terms the most common myths.

“The lake water is dirty.”

Like other shallow lakes where the bottom consists more of silt and clay, rather than sand and rock, the constant actionof the waves on the shores of Lake Chapala keep minute soil particles in suspension for up to 50 to 100 meters out from the shoreline. At a distance of about 90 meters, where the water depth may be three to four meters, the clarity of the water is much improved.

“The water is unsafe for swimming.”

The international standard for full-body recreational water safety relates to the measurement of coliform bacteria. Given the U.S standard of 200 units and Mexico standard of 240 units of fecal coliform bacteria detected in a 100 milliter (ml) water sample, it has been shown by five years of testing at 20 sites around the lake that the level is typically in the range of 50 to 60 units. By contrast, about one fourth of California beaches are closed each day due to bacteria levels above the 200-unit limit.

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