Water Crisis Looms: Record Lows Threaten Panama Canal And Amazon River

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  • Water levels in Gatun Lake, a key determinant for the navigability of the Panama Canal, are dropping below the 80ft threshold, potentially surpassing last year’s record lows.
  • Currently around 8ft lower than ideal for safe navigation, the lake’s levels could reach as low as 78ft, triggering surcharges of approximately 6.5%.
  • The El Niño phenomenon, identified as a contributor, is expected to abate, but a recent study suggests that man-made climate change is exacerbating the crisis.
  • Simultaneously, water levels in the Amazon River, particularly the Rio Negro, remain low, impacting river-borne trade and increasing food costs in the Amazonas region.

Panama Canal Faces Navigability Challenges Amid Dropping Gatun Lake Levels

Gatun Lake, a crucial element determining the navigability of the Panama Canal, is experiencing dropping water levels, potentially reaching record lows below 78ft. The current deficit prompts concerns about safe navigation, leading to potential surcharges of 6.5%. The Panama Canal Authority emphasizes that the transit reservation system is crucial for guaranteeing transit dates due to the persisting water deficit in the canal watershed. While the El Niño phenomenon is expected to ease, a recent study suggests that man-made climate change is intensifying the impact on the canal.

Amazon River Struggles with Low Water Levels, Affecting Trade and Food Supply

Simultaneously, the Amazon River, particularly the Rio Negro, is grappling with low water levels, impacting river-borne trade and increasing food costs in the Amazonas region. The Rio Negro’s water level has reached 12.7m, down from the usual 18-20m, with projections indicating a potential full recovery not until 2026. The decline in navigability is straining the region’s limited road infrastructure, leading to significant transportation challenges. The combination of low water levels in both the Panama Canal and the Amazon River highlights the broader environmental challenges facing critical waterways.

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Source: The Loadstar