If It Isn’t One Thing…..

…it’s another. On the heels of our friend’s post about the challenges of expat life, let me tell a story of our own. (1000+ word story to follow)

There is no guarantee that if you open your faucet, water will come out. Maybe there isn’t enough water and they have rolling shut offs. This is common in the dry season. Maybe there is too much water in the rivers from heavy rains, and debris has clogged the inlets to the water treatment plant. Maybe they are fixing and upgrading their equipment, which has been going on a lot in this area.

Last summer the water was out so much that we decided to put in a water tank.  https://blog.thepanamaadventure.com/2018/03/09/yay-water-all-the-time/  It’s been wonderful! If the water is out, it comes back on at night and our tank is refilled and meanwhile, we use the water from the tank. We always have water and good water pressure.

BUT…. Sunday the water was out. The tank refilled at night but with muddy water, unfortunately. This happens sometimes after work on the system or heavy rains. The dirt will settle to the bottom and you can use the water but it doesn’t look good for drinking until the tank is emptied, cleaned, and refilled with clean water.

So, Sunday night we got water, but that was the last water.  Monday, nothing. Tuesday nothing but a steady small trickle, not enough to refill the tank. Wednesday, the same. My neighbor said they also had only a trickle so I thought it was everyone’s situation. On the rare occasions that water is out for more than a day, a water truck comes around with clean water. But, if they came around this time we didn’t see them. We were thankful the huge downpour on Wednesday afternoon so we were able to refill the tank to about 3/4 full with collected rainwater.

Thursday, nothing, and the little trickle had now slowed to more dripping than trickling. In the evening I heard pebbles hitting the roof. It was Gilda, our next door neighbor. They also hadn’t had any water since Monday (they don’t have a tank either). We put the garden hose over the fence and they were happy to wash themselves in the yard, but we all still needed drinking water and enough water for daily household use.

Friday, nothing, and we were now carefully restricting our water use. We started checking around the neighborhood and it seems only our two houses were affected, and maybe a third on the corner but nobody was home. Gilda’s daughter Carlita said they had called IDAAN, the water company, but who knows how long it would take to get a response.

On Sunday evening, the band played in Boquete and I was talking with a friend/fan about the challenges of speaking Spanish in unfamiliar situations, like the trip I planned to make to the IDAAN office on Monday or Tuesday to get them going on our water problem. He advised that it would be much better to call a plumber. Good idea!! They plumber who installed our water tank lives in the neighborhood.

Monday, after lunch, who would show up but three IDAAN guys!  They said they were there to make a report which would be taken to the office to arrange for repair guys to be sent. I found out later that our neighbor was going to pick up his grandson from school and saw the guys on the street. He pulled over to tell them they had to come here right now to help us out.

But, I figured it would still be good to keep the afternoon appointment with the plumber, and he could also advise us on our pump which was having some trouble maintaining pressure (a much less urgent problem, for sure).

The plumber came and proceeded to track down the water problem. Nothing had been accidentally turned off. All pipes and valves were open and ready to allow water flow. There was water flow from the street above the meter, but the meter… AH HA! The meter was totally clogged with mud and debris which even included a piece of plastic. He carefully cleaned the meter including a little plastic filter (which didn’t look like it could handle any debris at all), and when he turned the water back on, YAY! Water flow! It came out like mud pudding at first but then clear, clean water.

He then cleaned the neighbor’s meter which was even dirtier than ours and after a start of thick mud pudding, they have clean water too. $50 and a couple hours later, service is restored. Our neighbor helped us drain and clean the tank, and we were back in business with a tank full of clean water.

The pump problem is probably a small leak somewhere so when it’s warm and sunny and everything is dry we can check all the connections for evidence of water escaping.

There is nothing like having your water cut off to make you appreciate clean, running water!! We were able to go to any of the neighbors at any time for drinking water, and we had offers to refill the tank with a hose stretched across the street if it came to that. How many people in the world never have access to reliably clean water, and how many have to carry all their water home every day?


Fast facts: Global water crisis

  • 844 million people lack basic drinking water access, more than 1 of every 10 people on the planet.
  • Women and girls spend an estimated 200 million hours hauling water every day.
  • The average woman in rural Africa walks 6 kilometers every day to haul 40 pounds of water.
  • Every day, more than 800 children under age 5 die from diarrhea attributed to poor water and sanitation.
  • 2.3 billion people live without access to basic sanitation.
  • 892 million people practice open defecation.
  • 90 percent of all natural disasters are water-related.

No, we didn’t enjoy our water problems but it’s nothing in the big picture. But, last night we sure enjoyed a great shower, a clean bathroom and kitchen, and a couple loads of laundry hanging up to dry. Thank you Ray for getting our water going again!

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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12 Responses to If It Isn’t One Thing…..

  1. MEBE in Medellin says:

    A timely post, Kris, because in our whining and mincing we often forget just how good we have it, especially in comparison with many, many others. 844 million folks with no water is far too many, and it makes our issues a drop in the bucket, no pun intended. Thanks for this.

    Liked by 1 person

    • My pleasure. For me, this experience has been a lesson in gratitude. Many people here have so much less, but seem so much happier. It says a lot about what we have been taught (wrongly) about happiness. And today I am grinning every time that clean water comes out of the tap! 😁

      Liked by 1 person

  2. Desperado Man says:

    Thanks for all your information about life in Panama. After following your blog for a couple of years I have given up my fantasy of retirement in Panama. For those of us who have grown used to first world conveniences (like running water;) life in the third world just sounds too uncomfortable, especially at retirement age and beyond. Thanks for preventing me from making that mistake.


    • I’m so glad to get your comment. We all know this doesn’t work for everyone, so if I have prevented you from making an emotionally and financially costly mistake, that’s a very good thing. I hope though that you can take a vacation here sometimes to see a little of the beauty and good things this country also offers.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Anonymous says:

    Sometimes it’s good that the language skills are not great.. it prevents us from saying things we’d regret later!!! i’m glad that they found the problem and all is fine.
    Thank you for addressing a larger issue, and yes, when we are without, we better appreciate things when it’s back to norm!


  4. oldsalt1942 says:

    And Flint, Michigan STILL doesn’t have clean, safe drinking water, but thank heavens the super rich got a tax cut in the billions!!!


  5. Carole says:

    We depend on our Systerns for water from the rain. We do not have underground city water. So when we are in our dry period we have to be careful with our water, don’t flush toilets all the time , our saying is if it’s yellow let it mellow if it’s brown flush it down. If we run out of water, which we did twice it cost us over $300 to get a truckload put back into our Systerns. We have a filtration system the water goes through to purify it, and once a month, depending how ,unchanged it rains we add bleach to our Systerns ( we have three). Some people without Systerns depends on the city water, like you, sometimes they have been having problems getting water. We live in the Virgin Islands and water is very precious here, we are not getting a lot of rainwater now so I can’t water plants like I would want to, I use water collected from a rain barrel to water a little so they don’t die. We had wanted to live in Panama, we love it there, but we have decided to try to survive here, we have 4 dogs and it would be impossible to move them there.


    • Ahh yes, I think I remember you talking about your systems and rainwater. Panama seems to be outgrowing its water supply at times, but they’d have to find a way to store the rainwater because most of the problems are from the dry season when there isn’t rain.
      We know people from the VI but it cost them a fortune and a charter plane to get all their dogs here. Here’s wishing you and yours (dogs included) happiness where you are.


  6. Felipe says:

    I love your posts and honesty about living there. I love figuring out household systems so this mystery would have been fun for me, though I know frustrating. Your posts helps those of us living somewhere else or considering a change. Your attitude to life’s issues is so refreshing, and how you put it in a global perspective.
    I have friends/clients in Belize. Their water situation is really bad in some places. Rural schools still have outhouses. I loved in Panama that I could drink water from the tap. I’d only seen that before in Argentina. (I wish Mexico would improve on that issue)


    • We could have emailed you down here to track down the problem! 😁
      I figure anyplace has problems, and the things that bother me here are very minor compared to the things that affect my happiness in the US, and everything always gets worked out eventually. We’re still really happy though every time water comes out of the tap! Yeah, many other places have it much worse. I remember in Nicaragua most people bathed in the lake.


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