Panama – Las Delicias
Las Delicias, Panama is a growing subsistence farming community of over 200 people in roughly 50 homes. The village sits in a mountainous region of the Coclé province. Due to an increase in the number of roads to and from the community, many local farmers have begun growing cash crops, such as oranges and coffee, to sell at the markets. The community has one school which meets many days, though the teacher commutes from outside the village and has other commitments. There is a community center where meetings and large gatherings can occur, and a soccer field which you can find by following any child in the afternoon. Las Delicias is, all things considered, a happy and thriving community. However, many citizens have limited access to clean drinking water. There is currently a water distribution system in place, but it produces an inadequate supply for the needs of Las Delicias. The village has an elected Water Board in place which collects dues and is responsible for the water.
EWB-USA NEU became involved with Las Delicias after a Northeastern community service group traveled to the village in 2014 to help build a water storage tank for the school. Because of that trip, EWB-USA NEU had an understanding of the problems and inconsistencies the community members faced with their water system. This first trip laid out the foundation of the relationship between Las Delicias and EWB-USA NEU. The current water system in the village uses two sources and one large concrete tank, which in theory could supply at least a large portion of the community with water regularly. A network of PVC pipes sits above ground and is subjected to elements ranging from sunlight to animals. In addition to leaks, the village has been suffering unusual weather patterns that have caused many problems for both the farms and the water supply. Las Delicias’ goals for this project are to make positive changes in public and environmental health, expand their technical knowledge related to their water supply system, and gain an increased access to clean drinking water. Our chapter is committed to working alongside Las Delicias to assist the community in achieving these goals.
In August 2015, the first assessment trip was carried out by a team of four students and two mentors. The goals of this trip were to gain a deeper understanding about the needs of the community, and gather enough technical information to begin a preliminary design. The team used both GPS and topographic surveying to create a map and pinpoint the specific challenges facing this system. The team also conducted health surveys and most importantly, formalized a relationship with the community, in which expectations of both groups were outlined. In addition, the team explored the sites of some potential new sources, along with assessing the current water source. EWB-USA NEU now receives regular updates on the flow conditions at these sites. Since then, EWB-USA NEU has been working on a preliminary design based on the information collected. Another assessment trip will be required, but over this past year student members have made significant progress on the design. Through several phases, the team plans to replace the transmission main from the sources to the tank, improve the distribution system within the village, and develop new sources to add additional capacity to the existing system.