GNF - Laguna de Zapotlán - Mexico

Lake “Laguna de Zapotlán” – Mexico


Background Lake “Laguna de Zapotlán”

The lake “Laguna de Zapotlán” is part of the neovolcanic axis to which the 26 most important lakes in Mexico belong. It is located in the central western region of Mexico, in the south of the state of Jalisco. The Lake is located in a closed basin. It is an epicontinental sweet water lake at 1,497 meters above sea level. Its maximum capacity is 27,000,000 m³ with an average covering area of 13.7 km² and depth of 4.5 meters, corresponding to a volume of approximately 20,000,000 m³, that is, 74 % of its capacity.


Laguna de Zapotlán is located in the lowest part of the Zapotlán endorreic watershed, and it stands out for hosting a considerable number of threatened and endangered species such as the Mexican long-tongued bat (Choeronycteris mexicana), the milk snake (Lampropeltis triangulum), whipsnake (Masticophis flagellum), and Mexican pine snake (Pituophis deppei). It is an area of refuge for an average of 25,000 waterfowl. The site contains around 50 wells and six freshwater springs, and constitutes a key water reservoir in the region, as well as a water body receiving nearly 34,000 m³ of treated urban wastewater. The Zapotlán Lagoon is currently under pressure caused by the surrounding population. Ramsar Site No. 1466.

The Lake is an important corridor for migratory birds from North, Central and South America, in which, birds live in the lake region from November to March. It has been registered 127 bird species, 57 aquatic and 70 terrestrial.


Among the migratory birds are: Great Egret (Ardea alba), White-faced Ibis (Plegadis chihi), Black-bellied Whistling-Duck (Dendrocygna autumnalis) and Caspian Tern (Hydroprogne caspia). There are four endemic species. Among those with special protection by the Official Mexican Standard are: Least Grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus), Wood Stork (Mycteria americana) and Least Bittern (Ixobrychus exilis). The emblematic specie of the lake is the Black-necked Stilt (Himantopus mexicanus). In the rest of the species, little study has been done, however there are recorded 40 species of mammals, 13 species of reptiles, 6 of amphibians and 7 of fish. Among endemic fish there are some in danger of extinction, just like: the Longjaw Silverside (Menidia grandocule); between amphibians, the Big-footed Leopard Frog (Lithobates megapoda), is a threatened species.


There are 442 vegetable species registered, however, due to the high change of land use, global warming and climate change, at this moment many of them are at risk. A dominant vegetable aquatic and endemic specie is cattail (Typha domingensis and Scirpus), which is used for local families to make crafts and everyday use items.


Lake Zapotlán is highly threatened and endangered by being in a closed basin, with a strong change in land use in buffer zones; this is due to fruit crops and a settlement of 140,000 fixed and floating people. Human settlements are composed by indigenous, rural and urban communities. So, the lake and the sub-basin of Zapotlán show high contamination of gray water and industrial waste of agrochemicals, livestock, forestry, natural waste as well as for volcanic events. There is currently manual, mechanical and biological control by the invasion of lily and cattail. Secondary treatment of urban water is also applied.

 Laguna de Zapotlán in Mexico
 Environmental education at the Laguna de Zapotlán
 White faced Ibis, Snowy Egret, American White Pelican and Great Egret
 Aquatic Sports at the Laguna de Zapotlán
 Natural materials are partly used for local handicrafts.
 Least grebe (Tachybaptus dominicus)

Project Measures Lake “Laguna de Zapotlán”

Many local residents do not acknowledge the ecosystem relevance of the lake. So, it was necessary to strengthen and complement the existent programs of formal and informal environmental education with local alliances of all the Lake stakeholders. Some of the programs are maintained through recreational activities, aimed at different population groups. The activity of bird watching with high school students is one example.


This is in order to protect, restore and manage for conservation, species of flora and fauna and their habitats. As a result of this conjoint effort in 2018, it was integrated a municipal agenda of environmental education.


The lake has a legally constituted entity which is the Basin Commission of Lake Zapotlán. There is also a State Committee for Environmental Protection of Jalisco Wetlands that goes in hand with the declaration of Zapotlán Lake as a Ramsar site since 2005. It is relevant for its biodiversity. Two distinctions have been awarded to the lake by the Ramsar Convention for: sustainable lake management in 2010 and for tourism on wetlands in 2012; the lake is home for national and international aquatic sports games. It was the subsection of the Pan-American Games, Guadalajara 2011.


Diverse productive, recreational, touristic, educational and preservation activities are developed in this Lake. There is the participation of different users: educational institutions, researchers, entrepreneurs, fishermen’s cooperatives, organised society, just like: agricultural, livestock, forestry, tourism and artisanal associations. Governments at different levels also participate.


The Research Centre at University of Guadalajara “Centro de Investigación Lago de Zapotlán y Cuencas”, conducts research and liason with governments in its three levels. There is also an area of Touristic Studies for Sustainability, which generates and disseminates information, training and education in sustainability and tourism. The Municipal Government of Zapotlán generates environmental education and sustainable tourism projects for different population groups. It manages resources and promotes integral environmental protection and management in the municipality. The NGO “Patronato  del Nevado de Colima y Cuencas Adyacentes” protects, restores and makes conservation work with species of flora and fauna and hábitats. It carries out recreational, educational and development activities in order to promote sustainable lifestyles.

 Fishermen at the Laguna de Zapotlán
 Wood strok
 Leadership for people with disabilities enable the experience of nature.


Partner Organisations Lake “Laguna de Zapotlán”


Centro Universitario del Sur de la Universidad de Guadalajara
Centro de Investigación Lago de Zapotlán y Cuencas
J.Guadalupe Michel Parra (Director), Jesús Alberto Espinosa Arias and Claudia Llanes Cañedo
Av. Enrique Arreola Silva 883, Colonia Centro, Ciudad Guzmán

Jalisco, C.P. 49000

Phone: +52 341 575 22 22 ext. 46074


Patronato del Nevado de Colima y Cuencas Adyacentes
Juan Manuel Guzmán Silva
Av. Primero de Mayo 126 Int. 10 Centro, Ciudad Guzmán

Jalisco, C.P. 49000

Phone: + 52 341 41 22 025


Municipal Government of Zapotlán el Grande
Coordinación General de Desarrollo Económico, Turístico y Agropecuario
Jesús Alberto Espinosa Arias (Coordinator) and Gabriela Hernández Salazar
Av. Cristóbal Colón 62 Centro, Ciudad Guzmán

Jalisco, C.P. 49000

Phone: +52 341 112 06 96