[IQP] Water Demand in Cerro Patacón: Census Team

Sponsor: Footprint Possibilities
Student Team: Sarah Ann O’Grady
David Myles Robinson
Ian Alexander Taylor
James Whelan
Abstract: Unusual weather patterns and the rapid urbanization of Panamá City have stressed Panamá’s ability to provide water to citizens. Those most affected are developing communities outside the city, where problems with the water utility IDAAN mean an inconsistent supply of potable water. This project’s goal was to assist IDAAN by developing a rationing plan to supply adequate water to each community. We successfully determined the population of each community by compiling and analyzing previously collected demographic information and by gathering new census information. Another IQP team gathered topographical information, and together we developed and presented the rationing plan to stakeholders.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

Panama has sufficient water resources to support its population but water shortages remain an issue, particularly in low income communities. The cause of this is twofold: rapid population growth and environmental factors have stressed Panama’s water infrastructure, while the organizations tasked with maintaining that infrastructure have lost millions of dollars and are unable to adequately service their customers. The low income communities surrounding the city have the least developed infrastructure, and there is not a consistent supply. The water utility tasked with delivering water knows little about the communities, making progress on new infrastructure slow. Additionally, existing water infrastructure in the communities is often misused or abused, requiring IDAAN to provide human resources to resolve the issue.

Our project, sponsored by Footprint Possibilities, was focused on gathering census data on the 10 communities of Cerro Patacón to better understand the community’s’ water needs. The data collected were then analyzed to predict current and future water demand by applying a growth factor to the current population. Findings were combined with the topographical findings of our partnering team to develop a water distribution plan that provided a fair, agreed upon amount of water for each community in Cerro Patacón. Both teams established a set of objectives aimed to collect and compile relevant data. We gathered prior census information from local universities and stakeholders and conducted our own censuses for the remaining communities lacking data. Upon completion we will present all findings to the government stakeholders associated with our project to help them better understand the water demand in each community. We believe this information will allow the stakeholders to install systems that deliver the necessary supply of water to each community.

Our first objective was to gather prior community population and demographic information. Before beginning research on the different communities, the team sought to gather as many existing data as possible to help us best utilize our time on site. We completed this objective through regular conversations with our sponsor Rick Montanari, an interview with a local university, and meetings with the community leaders of Cerro Patacon. Rick Montanari provided us with his collection of past research along with the contact information for the local universities and the community leaders. These existing data allowed us to determine the population of the communities of Kuna Nega, San Francisco, and La Esperanza and focus our efforts on those that had no census information. In order for previous information to be considered valid for our census, we required it to be less than three years old. We believe these results would still be an accurate reflection of the population and that performing a sampling of these large populations would yield less accurate results. Imposing this requirement ensured that our collective data would accurately reflect the Cerro Patacon population.

For the remaining seven communities which did not have prior census work, we conducted a community census to determine the current population. Unfortunately, our team encountered a few obstacles that we needed to overcome before our field work. These obstacles included planning daily transportant, organizing police escorts and the unexpected weather affecting safety and accessibility within the community. This limited our efficiency on site, however our team was effective at handling each one. Once these obstacles were cleared we conducted census work for each community, which focused on determining the total number of adults and children in each community. Our partnering team focused on gathering topographical data and optimal tank and pipe locations. Both teams made additional observations on each of the individual communities to help differentiate them from one another.

With the complete collection of data, our final objective was to combine our findings and develop a water distribution plan. The analysis was divided into three overlapping areas: population growth, ideal tank locations, and a person’s daily water requirement. The team’s main focus when analysing the data was to predict the future population growth for years one, two, three, five, and ten based upon of a general 2% growth rate. The other Footprint Possibilities team determined ideal tank placement based off of three main factors: point of elevation, location in community, and available space in the area. Together we established a three stage plan for the water supply that should be provided during emergency, ideal and comfort circumstances. Based on analysis of the data, our teams created a complete final recommendation for the future implementation by government stakeholders.

Our recommendations were organized into two main sections: individual community suggestions, overall community guidelines that should be implemented across Cerro Patacon, and future projects that could be performed in the area. All communities were given a recommendation to prohibit personal connections to the water supply and replace them with community fountains for all residents. We also stress the importance that, in the event of an emergency, the government refrain from cutting off the supply of water to Cerro Patacon for more than one consecutive day. Finally we recommend that all residents are required to become clients of the local water authority if they desire to have access to this community supply of water. These recommendations are designed to ensure all citizens are provided an adequate supply of water, while also working toward creating a system of responsible water use that is lacking in many communities.