PANAMA: Climate change affects the crossing of the Interoceanic Canal

Panama Canal water drought climate change

Climate change has become a major concern for the ACP (Autoridad del Canal de Panamá).The complicated situation regarding water resources in the region that are in need of the interoceanic canal to function has been ongoing for over two decades. The canal’s authorities blame a lack of rainfall allegedly caused by climate change.

Recurrent droughts have left the 50-mile-long system of locks with only 3 billion cubic meters of water in 2019, instead of the 5.2 billion cubic meters needed for normal operation, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

The alarm comes from Lake Gatun, where most of the canal’s water comes from. Due to the increment of 1.5 degrees Celsius over the past ten years, there is a significant loss of water led by evaporation, AFP reports.

The administration of the Panama Canal reported on the adoption of water-saving measures as a preventive measure due to the low level in the reservoirs that allow its operation and a few weeks after the beginning of the dry season.

The Panama Canal Authority (ACP) explained that, because this year the rains have been 27% below the historical average, it determined the suspension of power generation at the Gatún hydroelectric plant, in the artificial length of the same name, since October 2018, so as not to waste water through the turbines.

They also reported on the implementation of water conservation actions during the transit of ships through the navigation step between the Atlantic and the Pacific, such as the elimination of hydraulic assistance in the Panamax locks, which is used to expedite the transit of boats but that implies greater use of water.

The Panamax locks were the largest in the interoceanic route until it was expanded and began operating with a structure with greater capacity on June 26, 2016.

Other measures announced are transfering water between the two lanes of the Panamax locks during transits, to reduce their discharge to the sea; and to the extent that the size of the vessels allows it, and the ransit of two ships at the same time.

The continuation of the usage of water saving tubs in the Neopanamax locks was also determined.

The Canaanite administration pointed out that Gatun Lake, which supplies the water purifiers of Mendoza, Laguna Alta, Monte Esperanza, Miraflores, Sabanitas, Escobal, Cuipo and Gatún, as well as the Panama Canal operations, continues below its expected level.

Around May 2019, Panamá suffered its driest season in the history of time and during the year change, the issues seem to reappear. It is imperative to point out the obvious of the cause en consequence effect on the droughts experienced at the dry season in Central America and the northern countries of South America. The limitation or interruption of the passage of cheaps would ultimately increase the value of goods passing through the water way, and at the longest extent, will be assumed by the final customers and the environment.

Source Sputnik America Economia ACP

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