Global Nature Fund - Lake Amatitlán (Guatemala)

Lake Amatitlán – Guatemala


Background Lake Amatitlán

The Lake Amatitlán is the fourth largest lake in Guatemala, located 16 km the south of the capital Guatemala City at an altitude of 1,188 m. The fresh water lake covers a surface of 15.2 sq. km. The maximum depth of the lake reaches 33 m, the average depth is 18 m.


A railway track was constructed on the embankment at the narrowest point of the lake connecting both lakeshores. Thus the lake is divided into two basins with different physical, chemical and biological characteristics.

The Lake Amatitlán with its surrounding valleys, mountains and volcanoes has a unique landscape, which is used by many people as recreation area.


There are archeological remains dating back to the year 2000 B.C.. The town of Amatitlan was founded in 1536 and developed quickly. Since the colonial time, the lake is a centre of fishery. Its catchment area was the most important site of cochineal production (E 120), which was the main product for export when industrial chemicals had not yet replaced the natural dye. The lake water is also used for domestic use, irrigation and industrial activities. In 1800, the average depth of the lake measured 33 m, in the year 1996 the depth was only 18 m.

 Lake Amatitlan

Problems Lake Amatitlán

The western basin receives pollution loads from the capital as well as from the whole catchment area via the Villalobos River. This are annually approx. 75,000 tons of dissolved wastes, also fertilisers, causing high eutrophication. Another fact is that this river brings around 500,000 tons of sediment to the lake, as a result the depth of the lake diminishes about 70 cm per year. The water of this basin is drained by the Michatoya River, which is used for hydroelectric power generation.


Most important threats are:

  • High population growth
  • Deforestation for firewood 
  • Intensive farming at the shore line
  • Industrial growth in the catchment area and the wastewater contamination
  • Over-fishing


Partner Organisations Lake Amatitlán


Comite del Lago de Amatitl

Dr. Alvaro Hurtado (President)

Alvaro Miron (Vice President)

Edifico Maya - Via 5, 4 - 50, Zona 4, Of. 218

Ciudad de Guatemala, Guatemala C.A.

Phone: 502 - 332 - 32 60

Fax: 502 - 331 - 51 38