Panama Canal Cuts Water Use as Drought Prompts Energy Rationing

The Panama Canal is taking preventive measures to reduce water use as a drought prompts electricity rationing in Central America’s fastest-growing economy.

Hydraulic assistance to lift boats as they exit canal locks has been temporarily suspended and two boats will be permitted in a lock at once rather than just one, the Panama Canal Authority said in an e-mailed statement. The Canal Authority has also limited electricity use at its Atlantic and Pacific facilities, according to the statement. No restrictions on ship transit have been adopted.

Panama’s government suspended classes at public and private schools and universities for the week on May 7 and asked public-sector offices to turn off air-conditioners from 11 a.m. to 3 p.m. this week. Public sector working hours were also reduced.

“The decrease in rainfall will continue a few more days,” Presidential Minister Roberto Henriquez said in a statement. “For that reason, it is necessary for the government to implement measures to ration as much as possible and urge all citizens of the country to reduce energy consumption to overcome the current situation.”

Panama’s dry season is expected to extend for 10 more days, according to the Panama Canal Authority.

Backed by a $5.25 billion expansion of the canal, Panama’s economy expanded 10 percent in the fourth quarter from a year earlier, the fastest in the region.

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