[IQP] Water Demand in Cerro Patacon (Topography)

Sponsor: Footprint Possibilities
Student Team: Colin Mashack
Yaw Opare-Sem
Paul-Henry Madiba Schoenhagen
Ian Waugh
Abstract: Water access and availability is a persistent problem in the Cerro Patacon communities due to exponential population growth and subsequent stresses placed on Panama City’s public utility infrastructure. In addition, the Cerro Patacon communities do not have proper water storage capabilities or distribution systems, and with regular water cut-offs twice per week, shortages present a serious problem. In an effort to improve the quality of life in these communities, this project, sponsored by Footprint Possibilities, Inc., aims to generate a topographic study of the area using GPS and GIS systems, with demographic and socio-cultural information supplied by a partner team of WPI students. The combined data will be used to generate a full project proposal for IDAAN.
Links: Final Report

Executive Summary

This paper contains a proposal to combat Water scarcity in a community in Panama City, Panama by using portable water tanks. Panama City is the capital of Panama and an emerging metropolitan city. The prosperity of the Panama Canal and banking industry have led many to flock to Panama City for financial opportunity. In fact about half of Panama’s 3.8 million people currently live in Panama City. The shift of population to urban areas has increased water demand and put a strain on the current Panama City water infrastructure. The increased strain on the water infrastructure has caused the urban water utility company, Instituto de Acueductos y Alcantarillados Nacional (IDAAN) (“National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers”) , to periodically shut off water to communities on the outskirts of Panama City in order to revert water to commercial and residential buildings in the inner city. Our team has been tasked to investigate one of these areas on the outskirts of the city, known as Cerro Patacon.

The area of Cerro Patacon is located next to the main landfill of Panama City. Cerro Patacon has become home to many indigenous people such as the Kunas. Many of these groups have low economic standing and can be found living in conditions of poverty. Many of the communities are filled with litter and their proximity to the landfill has caused the Mocambo River, which runs through Cerro Patacon, to become polluted. In the last few years Cerro Patacon has experienced rapid population growth. Additionally, several communities have begun to develop with no clear boundaries. Little is known about the specific population and geographical size of each of these communities. Due to this lack of information and the informality of many of the communities the infrastructure to deliver water to these communities has not been completed. As a result many of the communities lack a reliable supply of portable water for drinking and proper sanitation when the water is shut off.

We will be working with our sponsor Footprint Possibilities, to propose a plan to IDAAN to utilize portable water tanks to provide the citizens of Cerro Patacon with an ample supply of water during water shut off days. Footprints Possibilities is a non profit organization that is affiliated with Engineers Without Borders which is headquartered in Saint Petersburg, Florida. Footprints has been working tirelessly to bring portable water to these communities for the past 8 years.

Our team is the Topography team, which mapped Cerro Patacon to determine the boundaries of each community and possible tank locations. We worked in conjunction with the Census Team, which collected census data for each community to determine the total population of Cerro Patacon. Collectively we determined the water demand and recommended a plan to install water tanks of appropriate sizes for each community. Our goals were met by achieving the following objectives:

  1. Reaching out to community leaders to obtain information concerning boundaries of communities We personally visited each community and touched base with the community leaders because many of these leaders are inaccessible by phone. The community leaders were able to show us the boundaries of each of their communities.
  2. Map the boundaries of all 10 communities using an application that has GPS capabilities We used the application Geo Tracker on our phones to map the boundaries of each community. Geo Tracker is compatible with Google Maps and was used without installing any computer software. The app tracked our movements as we paced on foot the outer boundaries of each community.
  3. Identify highest elevation points for possible tank locations The app allowed us take points at any location while obtaining the location’s GPS coordinates and elevation. The app was able to determine coordinates and elevation with good accuracy.
  4. Determine best locations for tanks based on elevation and population density A point of high elevation was chosen in each community such that water could be gravity-fed from the tank, eliminating the cost of pumps, which would increase the cost of the system. In addition, tank locations were put in locations that contained a high concentration of people.

After the topographical data were collected, they were integrated with data from the census team.After we collected this data we obtained population data from the census team. The census team was able to determine the number of adults and children in each community. From this data we were able to determine the optimal tank sizes for each community based on water demand. Based on research undertaken by the World Health Organization, and decided to determine the water supply needed for each community based on 3 levels. The three levels are as follows: Emergency; Optimal; and Ideal. An Emergency supply of water would allot each citizen of a community 20L of water per day. An Optimal supply of water would supply the adults of each community with 80 L of water and children with 60 L of water per day. Lastly, the Ideal level would supply each citizen of every community with 100L of water per day. Using these three levels we calculated the amount of water required for each community per day, and thus the size of the tank that would be necessary to meet those requirements.

In conclusion, both Footprint teams recommend that IDAAN supply the people of Cerro Patacon with the Optimal supply of water for each community and the installation of an appropriately sized water tank. The optimal supply of water would provide the adults of each community with 80 Liters and children with 60 Liters of water per day. This amount water would be enough for the citizens of each community to sustain themselves in case the water is shut off during the week. In addition, we advise IDAAN to not shut off the water on consecutive days, as this will deplete the supply of water in the portable tanks and not allow for enough time for the tanks to be refilled. We conclude that with the topographic data that is now available, coupled with the two WPI teams’ analysis of the communities’ specific water needs, IDAAN now has a much more informed basis on which to take steps toward bringing a reliable water supply to the people of Cerro Patacon.