Preventing water crises
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Preventing water crises

Water shortage threatens the Panama Canal

Extreme drought is putting one of the world’s most important trade routes at risk.

The Panama Canal in Central America is 77 km long. It connects the Pacific and the Atlantic oceans. It consists of 17 artificial lakes (the largest of which is the 33 km long Gatun Lake) and a large number of natural and artificial canals that have been widened, and two systems of locks.

3 percent of the world’s
marine cargo traffic passes through
the Panama Canal each year, but in recent years, drought has been
causing an increasing number
of problems: the water level of the Gatun Lake is often so low that
it is endangering shipping.

According to the regulations, if the water level of the Gatun Lake drops below 24.4 metres, the amount of cargo that New Panamax size boats can transport through the canal has to be constrained, while at water levels below 24 metres, similar limitations must also be applied to boats in the earlier and smaller Panamax class as well. This year, New Panamax boats have only been permitted to navigate the canal with lightened loads, and the restriction was almost extended to Panamax boats, as well. But the restrictions have already caused several million dollars of damage for the company that operates the canal.

If the trend continues, that may have a detrimental effect on the canal’s international reputation, which may even lead to it being replaced by other trade routes or modes of transport. Naturally, the company operating the canal is looking into possibilities of replenishing the water, but whichever solution they choose to stabilise water levels, the process will involve major interference with nature.

In 2019, for instance, the dry season began a full month earlier than usual, and lasted a month longer Photo: Shutterstock
Further information: The Economist

Major cities that could share the fate of Cape Town

Cape Town’s historic water crisis was a wake-up call for the entire world. Something that had previously been unimaginable happened. If the targets set in the Paris Agreement are not reached, there is reason to fear that many other major cities could suffer a similar fate within a few decades. The example of Cape Town is a timely warning that chronic water shortages are already just around the corner.

Innovative solution: The Water Retainer in Morocco

Only 1 percent of the World’s water is available fresh water and 70 percent of that is used by agriculture. Morocco is one of the countries facing the crises of less rain, drier topsoil and increasing population.

The last drops: seven bodies of water threatened by drying up

Climate change is increasingly depleting the water resources of the world – in many places, drinking water shortages are already a serious problem. The shocking images below tell a story about Earth’s largest bodies of water that we can no longer ignore.

What will become of you, Africa?

We have known for some time that a number of countries in Africa are particularly vulnerable to the effects of global warming on account of their positions alone. A recent study warns that the situation is even worse than we had previously thought.

Water scarcity leading to political conflict

Political tension caused by water shortages was also a feature of the history of the 20th century, and today, there is fighting in a number of zones where the lack of water was one of the initial causes of the conflict.

Hundreds of Australian towns face water crisis

Up to 180 thousand people may be left without drinking water due to the severe drought.

Extremely low water levels on the River Maros

The characteristic sand banks of the river have grown larger, some branches have dried out completely.

Millions left without water in Zimbabwe

Zimbabwe’s capital city, Harare, shut down its main water works on 23 September citing shortages of foreign currency to import chemicals required for water treatment. The situation may not only lead to a severe water shortage for the population, but also increases the risks of diseases carried by contaminated water, such as cholera.

European farming could suffer 16 percent loss by 2050 due to climate change

A comprehensive report by the European Environment Agency claims that over the next 30 years, agricultural yields could drop by up to 16 percent in Europe due to the phenomena accompanying climate change.

One of the driest and warmest summers in Germany

This year’s was the third hottest summer in Germany since the beginning of regular meteorological records in 1881, according to preliminary data from the Federal Meteorological Service.