Panama – Las Delicias

Status: Ongoing


Las Delicias, Panama is a fast-growing subsistence farming community of over 215 people in roughly 75 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.


The Project


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. EWB-USA NEU gained an understanding of the problems and inconsistencies the community members faced with their water system. The community service 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.


The Progress


In August 2015, the first assessment trip was carried out with the goals of gaining a deeper understanding about the needs of the community and gathering enough technical information to begin a preliminary design. The team used GPS and topographic surveying to create a map and pinpoint the specific challenges facing this system, 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 two current water sources. The second assessment trip took place during August 2016 and included some of the same goals as the first trip, further GPS and topographic surveying to map the new distribution system route, water quality and pressure data gathering to assess source and tank capability, material and labor research, and further data gathering for specific distribution design aspects. From these two assessment trips the program prioritized phases of the overall project and designed a gravity fed distribution system, utilizing break pressure tanks, to meet the needs of the community.


In August 2017 the Panama team returned to Las Delicias with the goal of starting implementation, construction of the distribution system, and completing half the distribution system. The team finalized all break pressure tank locations and met with a local mason and reviewed their designs, led training sessions for members of the community on construction methods, met with a pipe supplier outside Panama City to purchase and coordinate the delivery of the needed PVC pipes, and most importantly oversaw the start of trench digging, pipe laying, and structure construction. The community was left with the distribution drawings and within a few months completed all construction that was laid out for the first half of the distribution system.


The Panama team is returning to Las Delicias in March 2018 to complete the construction of the second half of the distribution system, gather needed data on future water sources to design source boxes, and use GPS and topographic surveying to design a transmission main. The distribution system is planned to be completed by the end of summer 2018, followed quickly by the start of the transmission and source box phases.