The Panama team is working in Valle Escondido to provide clean water access to a local community. Currently, 16% of Panamanians lack access to potable water, and many Indigenous Ngobe communities are actively displaced in favor of wealthy expats.
In March of 2022, our team traveled to Valle Escondido to meet the community and conduct a site assessment to better understand how we can effectively and sustainably provide clean water to the community. After spending a week with the community, conducting oral surveys about community illness and water needs, as well as evaluating available water sources (quantity and quality via broad sampling campaigns), we found the community to be greatly struggling to supply enough water to all its members. Many members have to drink from the small stream pool where they also bathe, wash clothes, and which is frequented by animals. We observed high concentrations of bacteria in the streams and other sources used by the community.
To address these issues, we are redesigning their current water distribution system to increase water quantity and adding chlorine water treatment to improve water quality. We are currently finishing our technical documentation and are planning to implement the first phase of the project in spring 2024.
About the community
Valle Escondido is a beautiful community located on the island of Isla Cristobal in the Bocas Del Toro Province and consists of around 40 homes and 400 members. Typically, 10 people live in each 1-2 room house. The community consists mainly of the Ngäbe people, a culturally rich indigenous population in Panama. They are primarily an agronomic society and many community members work on farms in Valle. Numerous cacao and banana plants can be found in Valle, along with livestock including cows, pigs, and chickens. Some members also work on the mainland and take a 40-minute boat ride to work every day.
The community’s aqueduct system currently has three 1,250 gallon tanks as a reserve connected to 5 different natural springs in the nearby mountains through a network of PVC piping. These tanks are then connected to 24 of the 40 homes in the community in series through a single pipeline system. This design effectively delivers water to the first half of the houses; however, there are currently many losses and inefficiencies in the system where houses further down on the line receive little to no water. We plan on improving this system design with five different improvements:
1. Equalizing the water distribution across homes.
2. Minimizing the losses of the system.
3. Improving the quality of the natural springs where water is being drawn.
4. Connecting more people to the aqueduct system.
5. Educating the community on the importance of conservation.