The Panama Canal Is Running Dry

An aerial view on April 21 shows a boat stranded in the dried bed of Alhajuela Lake due to a drought in Panama.
LUIS ACOSTA/AFP via Getty Images

The Panama Canal Is Running Dry

After nearly 110 years in operation, the Panama Canal is running dry. Although the canal connects the world’s two largest oceans, the water supply that operates the locks systems does not come from the sea. It comes from Gatun Lake. The 20-year drought currently afflicting Panama is forcing Panamanians to choose between drinking water and keeping the Panama Canal full of water.

  • Gatun Lake’s water level has fallen nearly 8 feet in the past year.
  • Each vessel that traverses the Panama Canal uses roughly 51 million gallons of water from the lake.
  • In the past month, the average wait time for a ship wanting to traverse the canal increased from less than a week to nearly a week and a half.
  • At one point, more than 160 ships were waiting to go through the locks.
  • Panamanian authorities expect water shortages to continue into next year.

Economic malaise: Panama is projected to lose tens of millions of dollars in potential trade revenue due to the bottleneck, but this is only the beginning of the economic malaise caused by the Panama drought.

The Panama Canal handles 3 percent of world trade and 16 percent of total United States-borne trade. A bottleneck would drive up prices around the world. The cost of shipping goods from China to the east cost of the United States has already shot up 36 percent due to the Panama drought and will likely go up even higher as water levels in Gatun Lake continue to drop.

Military threat: The drought also has dire national security implications for the U.S. Since the canal opened in 1914, America has relied on it to quickly move military vessels from its East Coast to its West Coast and vice versa. But if the canal continues to run dry, America’s 2nd Fleet (headquartered in Hampton Roads, Virginia) could be sundered from its 3rd Fleet (headquartered in San Diego, California). This would drastically reduce the number of ships America could quickly send to the Western Pacific Ocean to counter any major threat posed by China.

National decline: At one time, the English-speaking peoples controlled virtually every maritime choke point and sea gate on the planet. In his book The United States and Britain in Prophecy, the late Herbert W. Armstrong explained that this remarkable state of affairs began with a promise made to the patriarch Abraham.

God promised to give Abraham’s descendants control over the “gates” of their enemies (Genesis 22:17). A gate is a narrow passage of entrance or exit. When speaking nationally, a “sea gate” is a narrow choke point like the Panama Canal. God gave Britain and America those commercial gates, ensuring they would become economic and military superpowers.

But God also warned that if America and Britain did not obey Him, then not only would those sea gates be taken away, but they would be used against them (Deuteronomy 28:52). Now both drought and Chinese aggression are making the Panama Canal less useful to America than ever before.

Learn more: Request The United States and Britain in Prophecy.