Yay Water, All the Time!

This morning, the installation of our water tank was completed, and it’s wonderful. You can keep water on hand to see you through outages and do laundry at midnight if you have to. Washing dishes without running water is more challenging, needless to say, and I prefer keeping toilets flushed.  This summer has been worse than usual and we are without water for part of the day almost every day. I finally decided to get a tank.

I enlisted the help of our neighbor Lucho who can do pretty much anything, and if he doesn’t he knows someone who does. I gave him money and he showed up that afternoon with a 1100 liter tank on the roof of his car. I gave him more money and he showed up with a pump. He gave me a list of necessities for the concrete pad which I bought.

Wednesday, Lucho’s nephew/helper came with another guy to pour a pad for the tank, closely supervised by Lucho. Thursday, I awoke to rocks being thrown on the roof, and there was Lucho with Rey, the plumber/electrician. I wrote about that yesterday.

Rey worked hard all day yesterday, assisted by another nephew of Lucho who came after work at his day job. There was electrical work.

A line was wired into the fuse box, then fished up into the wall and run across the ceiling and down to the pump.

There was a lot of pipe to be laid out, cut, connected, and glued. The electric cable had to be wired into the pump. Some of the time Jerry worked while everyone else’s stood around and watched. Lucho was over frequently because he was in charge but he also has a big project in process at his house, which will include a tank for his family too.

This morning the crew returned to put in one final component, and then it was done.

Joel feliz! We now have better water pressure than we’ve ever had, and having water all the time is going to take some getting used to. We can shower anytime we want, or leave the breakfast dishes in the sink because I can wash them along with the lunch dishes. We can flush without first turning the faucet to assess the water situation.

If you look closely, you’ll see two shut off valves. One shuts off water from the tank, and the other shuts off the pipe that goes nowhere, but apparently is available if you ever want to attach something. Inside the tank is a float that senses when the tank is full, and another that senses when it is empty so the pump won’t turn on under that condition and burn itself out. There is also a check valve that prevents water from back flowing into the tank.

At the other end of the system is another shut off valve. It can shut off the line to the tank and send water from the city supply directly into the house. There is also a check valve to prevent water from flowing backwards to the street and a master shut off valve since, according to Rey, the one in the meter is hard to find and hard to shut off. I was concerned at first about the pipes just lying on the ground but that is very common here. It’s not like they are going to freeze. We will probably bury them at some point just for looks. We also need something to protect the pump from the elements, and something to protect the tank from the sun so the water will stay cool.

Nothing makes you appreciate something like doing without it. I never thought I’d be so happy and thankful to have water 24/7!  The whole thing, materials and labor ran us around $700-750, if memory serves. I have a feeling though that Lucho didn’t charge us for his part, so I’ll talk with him about that tomorrow.

There are many people without access to any clean water, and many more who have to haul all their water home from somewhere else. There are so many people who would be thrilled to have water in the house, even if it’s was only at night. We are pretty darn lucky to have clean, drinkable water from the tap any time we want it.

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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16 Responses to Yay Water, All the Time!

  1. Robert&Helen. says:

    It is also good to have a spare on off relay, This part can fail suddenly.


  2. Did you put in filters? One before the water goes in the tank and one for the return line from the tank into the house?


    • No, didn’t think about filters and no one mentioned it. The water here is good though out of the tap without treatment.


        • No, but my neighbor just came over and said they are getting a filter for their tank, and will let me know so I can get one too. Poor neighbor. They are installing their tank today, but there is no water to fill the tank and test the system. It’s so hot they are going through the drinking water so she came over to get some from us. They will all be so happy when they don’t have to worry about water! Her husband said he is seeing many cars with water tanks strapped to the roof. It seems a lot of people are tired of the water problems.


          • We had our water tested shortly after we moved in. There is a lab here in Boquete that does it. You should easily find a lab in David. Only cost $20. They mainly test for fecal matter.
            Our report was clean, but, and this is a big but, because the water in Chrirqu comes from many different sources does not mean it is safe to drink all the time. The filters are a big help. We have one 20 ml for the water going into our tank that stops all the dirt, sediment, and sand going into the tank. ( Keeps the tank water clean) Another finer filter for the water that leaves the tank going into the house that traps anything that the first filter missed plus calcium deposits. We are fortunate that the water here in Brisas is relatively clean. I clean the filters every few months. They tend to stay pretty clean. We do not drink water from the tap. We do cook with the tap water though. We have a Berkely charcoal filter that we fill with tap water every morning and use that as our drinking water. When we lived up near Volconcito next to Santa Lucia the water was horrible. The house we rented had 5 filters. One filter was UV light and the last one was a ceramic filter. I had to clean the first 3 filters every other day. It was like chocolate milk.
            So here in Panama don’t assume you are getting clean safe water going into your house.


            • Our water comes from the big IDAAN plant in Las Algarrobos. Everyone drinks from the tap so I never gave it a thought. My neighbor and I are going to get filters for the tanks though, just to be sure we have clean water coming in to the house. Water like chocolate milk? Eewwww. I would definitely take notice of that.

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  3. jim and nena says:

    Yay! Done and done.
    This is a similar system to what we had in Venezuela. Ours was different in that it had pressure sensors in the tank and when the pressure dropped enough from running water in the house, the pump started and drew water from a garage sized underground tank (10,000 gal) that was filled whenever the city water was running. The water pressure varied between 35 and 65 PSI with high flow rates, like filling the clothes washer. The pump is dependent on electric so if that is out, water use needs to be limited. I don’t remember any valves but I’m sure there must have been some. The dry season in Venezuela presented the same water issues as in Panama.


  4. James Sullivan says:

    Looks like it is a holding tank much like the aerator tank I have here in Florida, (I’m sure you know about the sulpher smell) for my well system. My aerator/holding tank is 250 gallons, which is about 80% of your 1100 liter tank. As Robert & Helen mentioned, have an extra pressure switch on hand, relatively cheap and easy to replace. That tank will make a world of difference as long as you know if the water is on feeding it. If the municipal water is off then that tank will drain until empty.


  5. ANGELA says:

    So now do you have water pressure AND hot water? I am preparing myself to cut off all of my hair when I move in anticipation.


  6. Hi Chris: I have been reading your posts with envy for a few years now.. I was at one time seriously considering Panama.. Canada is darn cold in the winter and I have envied your winter posts with summer clothing and a bike… sounds super !! I asked a few months ago if you were concerned about Venezuela. To arm yourself with information and to encourage thought and discussion check out Florida Maquis on You Tube .. I;d love to hear your take on this !!


    • I wish we could send you some heat. It’s nice and toasty here right now at the height of our summer.
      Florida Maquis? I’m not sure what to make of that, and he doesn’t seem to talk about Venezuela. Yes I am concerned about Venezuela. The people there are really suffering and having a terribly hard time. Here in Panama though, there is a lot of attitude about them and also Colombians who are felt to be coming here illegally and taking jobs away from Panamanians. Immigration policies were tightened up recently for this reason.


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