Lakes that supply Panama Canal battered by drought

Panama City, March 31 (IANS/EFE) Water levels in the two artificial lakes that nourish the Panama Canal and supply more than half the country’s households are at historic lows and likely to continue receding over the next two months, the Panama Canal Authority, or ACP, said on Wednesday.

Carlos Vargas, the ACP’s executive vice president for environment, water and energy, said the “difficult situation” facing Panama is a result of the El Nino-linked drought that forced the government to declare a national emergency late last year.

The depletion of the Gatun and Alhajuela reservoirs looks set to continue until late May “when the first rains are expected”, Vargas said during a television interview.

Vargas warned in January that Panama was facing its worst drought in 100 years and the ACP announced last week that starting April 18, it will limit the size of vessels transiting the canal, which handles six percent of global trade.

Earlier this week, Julia Guardia, director of Panama’s IDAAN water and sewer authority, said the most recent forecast suggests the dry season, which typically ends in March, probably will extend to July, though some rain is expected next month.

Pointing out that IDAAN has already imposed rationing of water in some areas of the country, she urged Panamanians to use water wisely to avert the enactment of more stringent restrictions nationwide.

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