Lake Gatun  below expected level as dry season looms

3,051Views 5Comments Posted 27/12/2019

In spite of recent rains  and with Panama on the eve of an anticipated severe dry season, Lake Gatun  remains 1.3 meters below the expected level

In addition, it was reported that Lake Alajuela stood at 76.99 meters, compared to 76.73 meters of the guide level.

 Gatun supplies the water treatment plants in Mendoza, Laguna Alta, Monte Esperanza, Miraflores, Sabanitas, Escobal, Cuipo and Gatún; as well as the Panama Canal operations ,

At 7:00 am on Friday, December 27, the lake  registered 25.51 meters, lower than 26.82 meters of the expected level for this date, while Lake Alajuela stood at 76.99 meters, compared to 76.73 meters of the level guide, says the Panama Canal Authority (ACP).

Gatun Lake, with 436 square kilometers of surface is 10 times larger than the Alajuela, so requires much more rainwater to fill at an optimum level to face the dry season that is approaching, said the ACP.

The water intake of the Federico Guardia Conte water treatment plant in Chilibre is located in Alajuela, which produces more than 200 million gallons of water per day to supply Panama City.

In addition to the low rainfall in the Canal Watershed, there is a deficit in the contributions of the main rivers, because this year the rains have been 27% below the historical average.

As part of the Canal's strategies, water from Alajuela is being sent to Gatun, but according to the ACP, "this volume of water has not been sufficient to significantly increase the level of Gatun."

Economy measures
Water saving measures are also applied in Canal operations such as suspending hydroelectric generation at the Gatun plant since October 2018 so as not to waste water through the turbines.

Hydraulic assistance is also eliminated in the panamax locks, which speed up the transit of ships, but imply greater use of water.

Cross-locks are applied, that is, water is sent between the two lanes of the panamax locks during transits, to reduce their discharge to the sea.

To the extent that the size of the vessels allows it, two ships are trafficked at the same time and the use of water-saving tubs in the Neopanamax locks is maintained.