[IQP] Improving Water Distribution in Burunga: Using a Social Census to Project Future Water Demand

Sponsor: Footprint Possibilities
Student Team: Yifei Jin
Tasharah Person
Peter Ross
Jose Sorto Bada
Abstract: Rapid urbanization paired with outdated census information has made upgrading water infrastructure difficult in Burunga, Panama. We conducted a survey of 296 households in three Burunga communities and generated census data on demographics and water facilities which allowed us to forecast water demand in the upcoming years. The analysis will help Panama’s water authority improve their water distribution system in Burunga by implementing municipal water infrastructure and a wastewater management system in the next two years.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

Panama has vast water resources. However, it is distributed unevenly, especially in low-income communities. The cause of this is twofold: rapid population growth and ever changing weather conditions in Panama. As a result, the current water infrastructure has undergone major stress. The low income communities surrounding Panama City have the least developed infrastructure. As a result, there is not a consistent supply of water being disbursed to the residents.

Burunga, located just west of Panama City, is one of the regions with the highest population growth rate (17 percent). Because of its mountainous landscape, the region requires a water distribution system that can reach various ground levels. The Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers, IDAAN, is planning to design a new water infrastructure system that can accommodate the needs of the current and future residents in the region.

Our project focused on collecting information in three barrios (neighborhoods) of Burunga, La Alameda, Nueva Jerusalén, and 13 de Febrero, to better understand demographics, household water management practices, and the demand for water. The data collected was then analyzed to estimate future water demand by applying the growth factor to the current population. Upon completion we will present all findings to the government stakeholders associated with our project to help them identify the water demand in each community. This information will allow the stakeholders to install a sewerage and water supply system that will deliver the necessary water supply to each community.

For all the three barrios which we did not have prior census work on, we conducted a per barrio census to collect the data IDAAN asked for and with that, estimate the current population. Unfortunately, our team encountered a few obstacles that we needed to overcome before our fieldwork. These obstacles included planning daily transportation, local skepticism, and weather affecting the safety and accessibility within the different barrios. This limited our efficiency on site, however, our team was as effective and efficient as possible.

For the barrio of La Alameda, we completed a household census for 220 houses. For the remaining two barrios, we used stratified random sampling to select 30% of the houses to be surveyed. By the end of the data collection process, we surveyed 48 households in Nueva Jerusalén and 28 households in 13 de Febrero.

With the complete collection of data, our final objective was to analyze the demographic and household data gathered, and consequently, developed a population forecast model and a water demand forecast model. The team’s main focus when analyzing the data was to predict the future population for years one, two, three, five, and ten based upon of the 17% growth rate. Among the houses surveyed, we calculated that there was an average of 2.78 adult and 2.37 children per home. Because we did not complete a census for 100% of the Burunga population, we extrapolated the missing population using an equation established by the University of Oregon: (amount of household occupants from the survey) + (remaining households * average household occupant). According to this model, the current estimated population of the Burunga region is 5,631. After one year, the projected population will be 6,588. In two years, the population is expected to rise to 7,708. In three years, the population will be approximately 9,018. In the fifth year, the population will be 12,345. Finally, by the tenth year, the population will be at 27,065. With these population predictions, we calculated the water demand in the three barrios, multiplying the estimated population of each respective barrio by 50 gallons of water per day, the amount recommended by the United Nations.

Currently, IDAAN records and analyzes collected census data on paper. This system is unreliable as the physical documentation can be easily lost or damaged. In order to ensure the most efficient data collection process in the future, we suggest that IDAAN digitizes their census. The implementation of this recommendation along with updating a bi-annual census and collecting a feedback survey of the Burunga residents, IDAAN is sure to be successful in providing water services to the area.