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Lake Valencia, Venezuela
Lake Valencia Information and Facts
Lake Valencia is the third largest lake in Venezuela after Lake Maracaibo and Lake Guri Reservoir.
Geography and Hydrology
It is located in Northern Venezuela, within Carabobo and Aragua states, in a rift known as Graben Valencia, lying between Cordillera de la Coasta (part of the Venezuelan Coastal Ranges System) and Serrania del Interior. The lake was formed approximately 2-3 million years agom after the faulting and subsequent damming of the river with the same name.
The lake's levels have varied throughout history, and some reports affirm periods of complete dryness. Since 1976 water levels have risen thanks to the diversion of water from neighboring watersheds. The lake acts like a reservoir for a number of surrounding urban centers, such as Valencia on the southwestern shore, and Maracay on the northeastern rim.
Lake Valencia, formerly known as Tacarigua, has a drainage basin of 2,546 km2 and is home to a few small islands, of which some are actually inhabited.
Its most important tributary is the Aragua River. Other inflows are the El Limon, Guacara, Guigue, Mariara, and Turmero rivers, which all flow near the towns with the same name.
The lake’s banks were the center of an important indigenous culture of Venezuela. It was visited by Alexander von Humboldt in the late 18th century, who was a famous Prussian geographer, naturalist and explorer.
The lake shores are used to produce cotton, sugarcane, tobacco, corn, fruits and coffee, and it is also the place where cattle are raised. A number of fish live in the lake, such as the diamond tetra, which is famous for being kept and raised in aquariums. Two species of catfish are endemic to the lake, the Lithogenes Valencia and the Pimelodella Tapatapae.
In the past years algal blooms have spread across the lake, caused by an influx of untreated wastewater from the surrounding industrial, agricultural and urban land uses. This caused ongoing eutrophication, leading to contaminated waters, salinization, and the loss of 60% of the native fish, which perished between 1960 and 1990.
The poor quality of the waters of Lake Valencia prevents the development of tourism and recreational activities in the region.