New satellite observations, published on Tuesday, reveal before and after images of the Peñuelas Lake, around 70 miles west of capital Santiago, in April 2016 and this month.
The branch-shaped lake, an expanse of dark blue water six years ago, is a now yellow-ish scar in the landscape and appears completely dried out.
The lake was one of the main sources of water supply for the Valparaíso region. Together with another lake, called Los Aromos, it was the water supply for nearly two million people. Many rural communities in the area are now having their drinking water delivered by trucks.
The lack of water has left local plant and animal life struggling to survive while tens of thousands of farm animals have died. In August 2019, Chile’s government declared agricultural emergencies in more than 50 areas.
According to the latest report by the Valparaíso Sanitation Company, the Peñuelas Lake’s current capacity barely reaches 170 thousand cubic meters, which amount to only 0.2 per cent of its total capacity of 95 million cubic meters.
While intense droughts that may last a couple of years are common in Chile, the South American nation has been gripped by this mega-drought since 2010.
For the past decade, rainfall in central Chile has been up to 45 per cent below average, and in Santiago, rain has hovered around 10-20 per cent of normal.
It is the worst drought in modern history, with scientists attributing about 25 per cent of the event’s severity to climate change. The rest is linked to natural cycles in atmospheric circulation, ocean temperatures, and rainfall patterns.
The images were acquired by the Copernicus Sentinel-2 satellites from Copernicus is the European Union’s Earth observation programme.