Panamanian Water Supplies

Panamanian infrastructure is some of the best in Central America. Roads aren’t perfect but generally they are quite good. Here in David we have seen a lot of repairs and resurfacing. There is more to do, and repairs don’t always hold up as long as one would hope, but they are definitely working on things.

We have heard from others that electricity isn’t always reliable, but here in David it’s been very good. We probably had more outages in Florida than we have here.

Internet is available for free in many public places, and easily available in your home for about half what we paid in the US. It also has been very reliable.

The water though… there have been a lot of problems. In the dry season supplies run low and the water runs only intermittently. In the rainy season if there is a very heavy rain, the water intakes get clogged with dirt and debris. Then, the water has to be turned off for cleaning and repairs. When the water comes back on it’s usually full of mud and dirt, and you have run it for awhile to clear out the pipes.


The water in the bowl is water out of the tap!

But, we are not alone. Many areas have pipes just lying on the ground, often taking water from a nearby stream. If the stream runs dry or the pipe develops a leak, no more water. Water storage tanks are very common so people have their own water supply on hand to cover them for the times when water isn’t flowing.

Panama is working on this also though, and there are many planned improvements in the works. $700 million has been allocated with the goal of having reliable water for 96% of the population within 20 years. When you consider how many people live in very basic conditions and/or in very rural areas, this is a huge undertaking.

It’s not convenient to have water outages, but it isn’t a huge deal either, especially since they never have lasted more than a day (though it has sometimes been out all day for days on end). We have learned to keep plenty of water on hand in gallon jugs for essentials. We have been known to wash dishes and do laundry at 3AM when we discovered the water back on. It sure makes you think about all the countless people in the world who never have running water, and have to hand carry every bit of their water to their homes.

While I was looking for a link about the water improvements, I came across this interesting link about major projects in general that are going on in Panama. As you can see, there is a lot going on in this relatively small country!

As I sit here on the patio watching it rain, with two 5-gallon buckets full of fresh rainwater, I will leave you of this video of the water coming back on one evening.  It was unusually full of air and mud that night, and made quite a commotion! 😀

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About Kris Cunningham

We live in David, Chiriqui Provence, Republic of Panama! This blog is about some of our experiences in our new country.
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4 Responses to Panamanian Water Supplies

  1. indacampo says:

    LOL! It seems to have a rhythm going! The “movers and shakers” i.e. construction crews have been here for the last few weeks doing the improvements to our waste and water systems. Maybe they’ll work there way over to your neck of the woods eventually.

    Funnily enough Connie and I were talking just this last hour (no kids showed up again for my English class 😦 she’s covering for Lucille and three showed up for her 🙂 ) Anyway, they are still without power in their kitchen. We talked about what we would be able to do without most running water or electricity. It’s definitely got to be the electricity. One doesn’t realize how important running water is until you’ve had to live without it for a while as we did for the first two and a half weeks we were in our house. It’s no fun hauling water.


    • I think I’d vote for electricity. We can do without water, but without electricity we have no fridge and freezer, and no … gasp…. internet! Good luck with your water improvements. I hope it works out well for you all.


  2. sunnymikkel says:

    As for the roads, wait until they start the 4 lane InterAmerican Highway widening project between Santiago and David, that will be great fun! It is already fun when there are a dozen cars/trucks/buses behind one of the fuel trucks. Between the Panamanians that pass on blind curves or just before the crest of a hill, the overloaded buses that go 100 km/hr downhill and crawl uphill and the 25% of the Panamanian drivers that will not go over 30 kh/hr no matter what, it is already interesting, wait till they close down one of the 2 lanes to work on the other one. Buena Suerta!


    • I heard they are going to widen that stretch of road, and it is really needed. I’m sure it will be a total pain while it’s under construction but it’s such an important road, hopefully they will get busy and get it done as quickly as they can. We generally take a bus so someone else can worry about the driving while we relax.


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