The Huacachina Lagoon, the focal point of a small oasis resort located 306 km south of Lima near the city of Ica, has begun to dry up in recent weeks after the local water company drastically cut back the number of hours allowed for pumping water from a local well.
The lagoon has been fed from external water sources for many years, but it’s water level has dropped four meters since April, after Ica’s Municipal potable water company, Emapica, reduced pumping time from 42 hours per week to six. To ensure that the oasis does not disappear, residents are supplementing the water supply by pumping in water from another well.
According to Emapica, the decision was taken soon after a three year-old well began to show faults in its construction. An older well no longer functions properly.
“Faced with this situation, Emapica decided to cut down on pumping and opted, moreover, to attend first to local hotels with pools, inns and lodging houses, 10 restaurants, and souvenir boutiques that have set up shop in the small oasis over the past three years, and caused a severe ecological impact,” said president of the “Save Huachachina” committee and Ica councilwoman, Matucha Piconne del Solar.
Dropping water levels are also due to evaporation, which increases when Ica temperatures rise during the summer.
Six settlements, which have popped up along the road to Huachachina in recent years, also contribute to the diminishing water supply. Though residents have settled there illegally – the grounds were declared national cultural heritage by the National Institute of Culture – the municipal government of Ica has done nothing to dislodge them.
“The solution is the urgent construction of a new, 80-meter deep well that will guarantee a regular water supply for the resort’s population and the lagoon,” said Piconne.
Ica still has 800,000 soles, or approximately $267,000, in its coffers, left over from a grant given five years ago by the Ministry of Tourism for the resort’s remodeling and reorganization, added Piconne.
Huachachina, tucked in between sand dunes, flourished in the 1940s and 1950s as a getaway for the Peruvian elite and regained a certain prominence through tourism promotion campaigns in the 1990s. Today it is a backpacker’s paradise and a top destination for sandboarding and dunebuggy rides, but the lagoon’s own water supply needs to be constantly supplemented from other sources.
A local legend has it that the lagoon was created when an inquisitive young hunter disturbed a beautiful princess while she was bathing. She fled, leaving the pool of water behind which became the lagoon.