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  • Currently, the canal only has three billion cubic meters of water,of the 5.2 billion needed for its proper functioning.

    Currently, the canal only has three billion cubic meters of water,of the 5.2 billion needed for its proper functioning. | Photo: Reuters

Published 1 January 2020
Opinion

The water supply problem has haunted the Panama Canal since the United States handed it over to Panamanian authorities 20 years ago.

The Panama Canal, one of the main communication routes between the Pacific and Atlantic Oceans, is suffering a serious shortage of water that hinders its proper functioning, the Deutsche Welle reported Wednesday, citing the canal's authorities.

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According to the authorities, the canal currently has three billion cubic meters of water, a figure much lower than the 5.2 billion needed for its proper functioning. The water supply problem has haunted the Panama Canal since the United States handed it over to Panamanian authorities 20 years ago.

Gatun Lake, which has not only covered the needs of the canal but also supplied drinking water to the local population, has experienced a considerable loss of water level over the past two decades. Authorities believe the drought is responsible for the drop in water levels, which is allegedly due to climate change effects, as local rainfall fell 27 percent below average in 2019.

Canal officials are considering building wells or desalination facilities to solve the problem, fearing that ships could start choosing other waterways, particularly the Arctic.

This, in turn, would reduce the importance of the Panama Canal, which is currently responsible for 3.5 percent of world trade. It is used by many carriers of liquefied natural gas and liquefied petroleum gas, as well as by container ships moving from one ocean to another.

The canal is also the main source of income for the Panamanian government, which receives benefits from tolls imposed on ships passing through the waterway.

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