GNF - Shortage of water, May 2009

Shortage of water at Mar Chiquita

The consequences of the water shortage at Mar Chiquita, the largest lake in Argentina, are dramatic: Satellite pictures show 120 km large salt dust clouds, which are blown into the country by the wind.


For years, too much water has been diverted from the greatest in-flow of the lake, the River Dulce. Additionally, an east-north canal is planned, to divert  water from River Dulce for the industry and the livestock farming in the province of Santiago del Estero. Because of climate changes, the rainfall has diminished and the natural evaporation of the lakes increased. (May 2009)

All in all, the water level of Mar Chiquita decreases rapidly and the white beaches, consisting of a mixture of sand and salt, become dry. This mixture is blown aloft by the wind, forming large clouds, and reaches distant towns such as San Francisco and Villa María. It also affects the human health and the environmental condition.


In the context of the programme PROMAR (Programa Mar Chiquita), the department of Zoology of the University of Córdoba pleads for the protection of the large lagoon. It is a Living Lakes partner since 2000. In 2008, Professor Enrique Bucher founded the foundation MAR, running a biological station in situ and striving for the implementation of the management plan, developed by the university. In 2006, Bucher published a book about the situation and prospect of Mar Chiquita and pointed out the development of the giant salt clouds. In order to prevent the lagoon from drying out and to avoid negative effects, a minimum rate of water for the lake must be immediately agreed on and observed, similar to the arrangement for the Mono Lake in California ten years ago.


Against this background, co-operations and the exchange of experience among organisations and government agencies, involved in conservation measures at other lakes and wetlands, should be deepened. Above all, salt lakes such as the Mono Lake and Great Salt Lake in the USA, the Dead Sea in Middle East and the Aral Sea in Kazakhstan and Uzbekistan are vitally important.

 Satellite picture with salt dust clouds over Mar Chiquita as well as the towns San Francisco and Villa María.

In 2011, PROMAR, in co-operation with the International Society for Salt Lake Research, will organise the 11th International Conference on Salt Lake Research. The conference will take place in Marimar at Mar Chiquita.


Further focal points and aims of PROMAR:

  • An educational programme for primary and high school teachers in the reserve area is under way.
  • A field station with laboratories and accommodation for visitors was opened in 2005.
  • Research programmes are under way, taking into account  several aspects of the wildlife management programme of the University of Córdoba.
  • PROMAR is also participating in international monitoring programmes, including the analysis of the chemical composition of rain (in agreement of NOAA National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, USA) and intercontinental migratory bird monitoring (Western Hemisphere Shorebird Network).
  • The local NGO Fundación Mar was created with the support of PROMAR.