Much is said about the importance of water for life. Although 70% of the Earth is covered by water, only a small part of it is fresh. Thinking about it brings us face to face with a harsh reality: that besides being vital, it is scarce and must be conserved.
The Panama Canal, one of the Panamanian entities that contributes important revenues to the State, depends on the efficient administration of water resources. During the construction of the waterway, large-capacity reservoirs were designed to store water from the Chagres River watershed, and at the time, Gatun Lake was the largest in the world. The available drinking water also contributed to the urbanization of the cities of Panama and Colon.
However, the Canal’s meticulous record of freshwater production, conservation and storage conditions tells us that changes are coming.
Every day, we see evidence of climate change impacting all countries, but not in the same way. In the case of Panama, variations directly affect water availability and supply for vessel transits. In other words, the health and prosperity of this country are linked to the conservation of fresh water, not only in the Canal watershed, but in the 52 hydrographic watersheds of the isthmus.
Since its transfer to Panamanian hands in 1999, the Canal has been scientifically monitoring its watershed and learning from each crisis. Strategies include: the Environmental Incentives Program, land titling, seasonal draft restrictions, cross filling of the locks, among others. The freshwater charge reflects the future. At the end of 2020, water began to be traded on the commodities futures market, underscoring that its price will now fluctuate like that of oil, wheat and other commodities, establishing a benchmark price for this resource.
The Panama Canal is committed to making water management its top priority. Without water, nothing would be the same.
Marianela Dengo de de Obaldía
Vice President of Communications and Corporate Image