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Lake Balaton Water Level Concerningly Low but Not Yet Critical

Hungary Today 2022.05.20.

After long months of drought, it finally rained in the second half of April in Hungary, but water levels in the country’s largest lakes are still not optimal. The balance of inflow and evaporation at Lake Balaton has not been as bad as in the first quarter of this year for a hundred years, the authority responsible for the waters of Hungary told Népszava earlier. A senior researcher at the Balaton Limnological Research Institute told Index that climate change is having a negative impact on Hungary’s largest lake, but there is currently no cause for concern.

This article was originally published on our sister-site, Ungarn Heute.

According to the Hungarian Hydrological Forecasting Service, the water level of Lake Balaton rose to 104-105 centimeters thanks to the rains in April, but last fall the water level was 84-85 centimeters, which is 25-26 centimeters less than in winter, and 35-36 centimeters less than in summer – some marinas could not be used by sailors, the news site Népszava recently reported.

The water balance of Lake Balaton was characterized by extreme water shortage from January until now.”

The water movement of the lake, i.e., the sum of precipitation, inflow, and evaporation, was the lowest in the January-March period since 1921.

Precipitation in the Lake Balaton tributary area during this period was only 47 percent of the average for the last 30 years, less than half the usual amount.

It should be noted, however, that the current drought is not unprecedented: while the average water level of the lake on May 1, 2022, was 105 cm, between 1921 and 2021, there were 67 years when the average water level was below this value (for example, 57 cm in 1949, 70 cm in 2003), according to Index.

So the current situation, although extreme, is not exceptional. The water balance of the lake is essentially determined by nature, i.e. the water balance of Lake Balaton is a natural phenomenon.

Over the past two decades, there has been an increased demand to minimize the occurrence of excessively low water levels, so the regulation level in the lakebed has been raised to 120 centimeters, but this is not expected to be achieved.

The General Directorate of Water Management (OVF) authority told the news site that the average water level of the lake in the next six months will probably be below the currently prescribed value and between 78 and 88 cm by the end of the vacation season (September 1).

Experts also point out that excessive human intervention is not good for Lake Balaton. “The lake has a natural water level fluctuation of 40-50 centimeters, which the ecosystem can easily cope with, but we interfere by over-regulating. Over-stabilization is not good for the natural processes.”

Lake Balaton May Dry Up within Decades, Scientist warns
Lake Balaton May Dry Up within Decades, Scientist warns

This could happen by as early as 2050, and by 2035 the lake could become unfit for bathing, according to limonologist Viktor Tóth.Continue reading

During the summer heat, millions of people flock to the lake on the weekends, many of whom enter the water with sunscreen and suntan oil on their skin and trample the plants and animals that live there. The organisms that live there are sensitive to this: the algae that remain will be smaller and more densely covered with small leaves, and those that can escape will move to other areas. So nature is also adapting to this.

Experts have also pointed out that problems can already occur at a water level of about 50 cm. This was the case, for example, in 2002, when a sit-down meeting could be held on a sandbank in the lake near Balatonfenyves: the water level was 28 centimeters. Now the lake is almost 80 centimeters higher.

Sources: Index, Portfolio, Népszava

Featured image via Zoltán Balogh/MTI

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