[IQP] Mapping Critical Water Infrastructures in the Neighborhoods of Burunga, Arraijan, Panama

Sponsor: Footprint Possibilities
Student Team: Peter Carosa

Brandon Cohen

Alisa DaSilva

Luke Fronhofer

Abstract: In the three Panamanian neighborhoods of Nueva Jerusalen, 13 de Febrero, and La Alameda, significant land development and population growth have caused a growing demand for a stable method of water distribution. The area is yet to be fully mapped and documented, causing difficulty for the agencies trying to upgrade community water infrastructures. We created an interactive map plotting roads and existing water features. With this information, we provided recommendations on required pipe infrastructures and water pressure.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

The Panama Canal runs north-south and divides the country of Panama into Eastern and Western zones. The state-owned lands surrounding the Panama Canal Zone have become home to settlers over the last 20 years due to the availability of the land with the handover of the canal back to the country of Panama. As a result, governmental agencies, such as El Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados Nacionales (National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers), also known as IDAAN, have been struggling to provide these new communities with basic utilities; most households in these areas do not have potable water.

Arraijan is a district just west of the canal which contains the sub-district of Burunga, where many of the houses have been built within the last 10 years. Currently in the region of Burunga, there exists a water tower holding 50,000 gallons and an additional 1.6 million gallons in an underground reserve tank; this water tower will service three of the over a dozen neighborhoods in Burunga: La Alameda, Nueva Jerusalen and 13 de Febrero. This is part of a World Bank funded project to provide Burunga with a water and sewage system; $10 million of this loan is going to the three communities in which we worked. IDAAN will pump water from the water tower to the highest points in La Alameda and 13 de Febrero where gravity fed water tanks, that are large enough to sustain the community’s water needs, will distribute water to the surrounding areas. The underlying issue for IDAAN was a lack of information about the communities and the existing infrastructure in the region. Without this information it has been impossible for IDAAN to distribute the water to the nearby neighborhoods. Therefore existing maps needed to be updated to reflect this population expansion and to establish a baseline profile of existing infrastructures to provide these areas with potable water.

Our project goal was to provide IDAAN with knowledge of the current water infrastructures (such as water tanks and culverts) and create maps of neighborhoods in the Burunga sub-district to establish formal boundary lines and identify paved roads. Our maps of the rural communities in Burunga will help IDAAN and other governmental agencies to assess the living situations of people in these regions and alleviate a major problem that these communities face: the lack of access to a potable and sanitary water supply. We worked in cooperation with Footprint Possibilities, a nonprofit organization that works to improve the wellbeing of Panamanian communities, in coordination with partners from IDAAN, to reach the goal of helping the rural communities of Panama establish capable water systems and overall community improvement.

The overall purpose of our project was to plot, organize, and map the communities’ critical water features in a single database. This will assist our sponsor, IDAAN, to determine where to allocate the $10 million dollar World Bank loan to much-needed infrastructure in the neighborhoods of La Alameda, Nueva Jerusalen and 13 de Febrero in the sub-district of Burunga.

The features in the area were mainly culverts, personal water tanks, and roads. We mapped these features using the iPhone application Map Plus, which allowed us to mark points with descriptions and pictures of the features and transfer them into a distinct mapping layer for each feature we encountered.

Our first task in the mapping work was to establish polygons representing the boundaries of the neighborhoods, which we determined by referencing IDAAN’s latest maps of the region (from 2009) and by walking the perimeter of the communities. Once our areas of work were established we broke up into teams of two and walked each road while making note of the location and description of critical water infrastructures in the Map Plus app.

Our team set out over five days and covered 40.84km (25.38 miles) of roads in the three communities. The communities covered a total of 1.32km2 (326 acres), but the terrain was very hilly and in some cases difficult to walk. In total our team had an elevation gain of almost 1300 m (4265 ft) and spent almost 14 hours on these mapping excursions.

While plotting and mapping the three neighborhoods, we engaged with community members who showed interest in the work. In many instances we were approached and asked what were we doing and why were we doing it. We used practiced Spanish phrases to establish rapport with community members as well as to explain the nature of our work. This communication was an important component in completing our project.

This year there were three different WPI Project teams coordinating with Footprint Possibilities which required us to work cohesively not only with our sponsor and client, but with two other WPI teams. Our team took on the responsibility of organizing the data collected by the other teams into a comprehensive interactive map to allow all of the data collected to be viewed in one location. One team, the Census Team, surveyed the neighborhoods to later make an estimation on water demand, while the other team, the Environmental Team, tested water quality of the Burunga River which ran along all three neighborhoods. We used Google MyMaps to allow different members of IDAAN to access this information.

To provide recommendations on the pipe requirements to pump water from the water tower to La Alameda and 13 de Febrero we calculated the minimum cross sectional area of the main pipes needed. We also identified the locations of the highest altitudes in La Alameda and 13 de Febrero and mapped a route for the pipes from the existing water tower to the highest points, where IDAAN has plans for gravity fed water tanks to be built. We also used the Bernoulli Equation to estimate the pressure needed to deliver water to these locations.

In La Alameda 23 water tanks were found, in Nueva Jerusalen 22 were found and in 13de Febrero 100 water tanks were found. A similar trend can be seen with the number of culverts, and fire hydrants found. More established areas were seen to have more infrastructure and less maintenance; the neighborhood of 13 de Febrero is the oldest and largest community which is where a majority of the features we found were located.

The Census Team made predictions for one, five and ten years and using this  information we were able to recommend that IDAAN use at least a 12 cm (4.72 in) diameter pipe for the pipes in La Alameda and at least a 22 cm (8.66 in) diameter for the pipes in 13 de Febrero. We also provided Yamileth Quintero, our IDAAN contact and the Arraijan Regional Director at IDAAN, with the estimated water pressure required to pump the water from the water tower, located at 145m (475.7 ft) above sea level, to the highest points in La Alameda and 13 de Febrero.

We found that the pressure needed to get to the highest point in La Alameda, which is located 127m (416.67 ft) and 3km (1.78 miles) from the water tower, is 47 pounds per square inch (psi). We then found that the pressure needed to get the 1.5km (0.93miles) to the highest point in 13 de Febrero, located at 139m (456 ft) above sea level, is 30 psi.

At the completion of the project we produced a complete map of each of the three neighborhoods which included the locations, type, and dimensions of multiple water tanks, culverts, and roads in mapping out these regions, we were able to gauge how the community members felt about their current water situation.

In addition to plotting these points we also came across a single fire hydrant which allowed the Environmental Team make recommendations for their project regarding a proposed use for treated waste water. To assure IDAAN would be able to make use out of our interactive map, access to the online map was provided, along with a printed copy for access away from a computer. This series of PDF files included the maps and a legend indicating what each symbol represented were presented in both English and Spanish. The locations of each feature were also converted and displayed in a table in UTM coordinates so that they would be easily imported and compatible with the software IDAAN uses to map areas across Panama.