Lake Pa??tzcuaro, the center of the ancient Tarascan civilization located in the Mexican altiplano west of the city of Morelia, has neither river input nor outflow. The relatively constant lake-salinity over the past centuries indicates the lake is in chemical steady state. Springs of the south shore constitute the primary visible input to the lake, so influx and discharge must be via sub-lacustrine ground water. The authors report on the chemistry and stable isotope composition of the springs, deeming them representative of ground-water input. The springs are dominated by Ca, Mg and Na, whereas the lake is dominated by Na. Combining these results with previously published precipitation/rainfall measurements on the lake, the authors calculate the chemical evolution from spring water to lake water, and also calculate a salt balance of the ground-water-lake system. Comparing Cl and ??18O compositions in the springs and lake water indicates that 75-80% of the spring water is lost evaporatively during evolution toward lake composition. During evaporation Ca and Mg are lost from the water by carbonate precipitation. Each liter of spring water discharging into the lake precipitates about 18.7 mg of CaCO3. Salt balance calculations indicate that ground water input to the lake is 85.9??106 m3/a and ground water discharge from the lake is 23.0??106 m3/a. Thus, the discharge is about 27% of the input, with the rest balanced by evaporation. A calculation of time to reach steady-state ab initio indicates that the Cl concentration of the present day lake would be reached in about 150 a. ?? 2004 Elsevier Ltd. All rights reserved.