Much of Tunisia has suffered from severe drought conditions for a number of years. The United Nations Department of Economic and Social Affairs lists
Tunisia as a "freshwater scarcity country", which makes the appearance of a lake in the middle of the desert not only a mystery, but a welcome surprise for many.
The lake, which is located about 25 km from Gafsa, takes up approximately 2.6 acres of surface area and ranges from 10 to 18 meters in depth according to Al Arabia
. Now known as Gafsa Beach, the lake was discovered by local shepherd approximately three weeks ago. News of the mysterious lake began to spread across the area, resulting in hundreds of people flocking to the area to seek respite from current 40 degrees Celsius (104 ºF) temperatures.
While many in the area consider the appearance of the lake a blessing, officials with the Regional Directorate of Civil Protection (RDCP) are worried about potential health risks. Earlier this week officials announced that the water is potentially dangerous and unfit for swimming. Hatef Ouigi, director of RDCP, called the warning a precaution, telling Tunisia Daily
that officials need time to check the water's quality and take whatever protective measures may be necessary.
Although officials still do not know what led to the lake's appearance, they are theorizing that seismic activity fractured a layer of rock which allowed an underground reservoir to flow into the desert cannon. Due to phosphate mining in the area, officials fear the water may contain carcinogens. According to a Courier International report
, officials are also concerned that the water may contain radioactive particles as well.
Although much is still not known about the lake, what is certain is that residents of the area hope they can continue to enjoy the lake and find refuge from the scorching temperatures.