Lack of infrastructure prolongs water crisis in the Panama Canal

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By LatAm Reports Staff Writers

The Panama Canal contemplates the expansion of its watershed through the creation of a reservoir of water in Río Indio.

The administrator of the Panama Canal, Ricaurte Vásquez, warned that the water crisis in the interoceanic route “has not been resolved” despite the arrival of the rainy season.

“Although the problem has begun to rain has not been solved,” Vásquez said, referring to the water crisis facing the country and the waterway and that transcends the beginning of the rainy season due, he said, “to the current lack of infrastructure to manage this resource at the national level,” said a statement from the Panama Canal Authority.

The arrival of the rains has improved the water level of the Gatún reservoirs (1913) and Alhajuela (1935) that nourish the Canal, which led to the fact that on 26 May, for the first time so far in 2024, both lakes dawned above the level recorded for the same date of 2023.

As a result, the number of daily transits has increased progressively.

There are currently 32 steps a day and for next July they are expected to increase first to 33 and then to 34, after the seasonal drought of 2023, longer than usual and enhanced by the El Niño phenomenon, forced a gradual reduction in the number of daily steps, which reached 22 in November.

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This is close to the optimal scenario of the Panama Canal of 35 and 36 ships a day, a figure that is given under normal conditions and to which the track hopes to return in 2025.

Vásquez explained today that although Panama is the fifth country in the world where it rains the most, there are a large number of people who lack water in their homes.

For this reason, he stressed “to be aware that this is a problem of all and whose solution we must participate collectively,” the communiqué stresses.

The administrator gave these statements in Penonomé, about 170 kilometers west of the capital, during an information tour to update on the performance of the waterway in the last year and future projections.

There, communicators and students learned about the initiatives promoted by the Canal for the development of a water program that seeks new sources of water and the increase of water storage capacity to ensure the availability of the resource and face increasing demand in the midst of the climate crisis.

The project of a new reservoir
The Panama Canal envisages the expansion of its watershed through the creation of a reservoir of water in Río Indio – west of the same basin – as the most feasible solution to deal with the water crisis, but must first go through a government approval process.

However, there is a community of about 2,500 people, who are guaranteed that in the event of some of their properties being flooded they will receive compensation for the construction of a new house and the provision of land.

Vásquez referred to this issue during the informative tour in raising the implications of the construction of that reservoir in that area.

“If the approval were achieved to build this reservoir, it would be done respecting all the rights of the inhabitants of this basin who are affected by the initiative, and with whom a communication and relationship process will be established to reach agreements,” he explained.

The Administrator said that if the inhabitants of the Indian River become part of the Panama Canal Hydrographic Basin, they would be invited to be part of the conservation programs that the Canal carries out.

“The community work that takes place with the neighbors of the Canal basin is the largest achievement that the Canal has in the 25 years that it has in Panamanian hands, even above the millions of balboas that it delivers annually to the National Treasury,” he reflected.