It Is Easier To Give Clients A Line Than to Fix One

Yesterday I received the following email from Diane Fessenden, resident of Potrerillos, along with a private inspection report of the Potrerillos water line.

Apparently IDAAN finds it easier to just give their clients a line rather than fixing one.

I consider this a growing problem across all of Panama. Years of neglect and recent Hydroelectric construction are taking its toll.

Don Ray,

I have had serious water problems for at least 3 weeks.  Every time I contact Idaan they say the problem is in my line.  that can’t be true because I can name at least 20 other neighbors who have the same problem.  The attached photos show the problem is at the original source of water.

I have sent this email to the headquarters in Panama City with no response.  At this point I am thinking to get this information out to news sources for a story.

Thank you,
Diane Fessenden

The inspection report follows along with photos.

Today (January 5, 2013) an inspection of the aquifer (toma) up in the mountains was conducted and it was discovered that the main pipes have been damaged and the primary holding tank is largely empty. The primary holding tank is approximately 8 feet deep and should be full to the top however today the tank contained about 18 inches of water rather than the normal 8 feet of depth.  Additionally one of the 8” PVC pipes that feeds the holding tank has two areas where the pipe is broke allowing the majority of the water to escape before delivery to the holding tank.

After observing the lack of water in the tank and the associated pipe damage I have concluded that the Potrerillos water system is on the verge of collapse and will soon stop delivering water to the township. In my opinion the water system is only operating at 25% capacity in its present state and is expected to fully fail at any time.  It is recommend that you take any appropriate action necessary to insure you have an alternate water supply or adequate water reserves before a total system collapse.  Good luck

11 thoughts on “It Is Easier To Give Clients A Line Than to Fix One

  1. The Potrerillos water delivery system is not a simple matter. There seem to be two separate sections, branching from the main collecting point. One section always seems to be problematical; there have been many times when those on that part of the delivery system have been without water while those on the other section have had no problems. No one, including a number of Panamanians who live right in the pueblo, seems to know why this is so.

    We seem to be on the “good” section. Unlike Diane (we live within walking distance of her house) we have had no problem recently. And our water pressure is such that we have a pressure reducer in place in order to protect the water fittings in the house. However, like several others in our neighborhood who are within walking distance of Diane’s house, and from whom I have not heard of any water problems, we are connected in a different place–higher up on the main 2″ water line–than Diane. That may be the difference.

    Then again, who knows?

    Joyce LaGow

  2. We were told that the water here goes out without warning, regularly. It seems this problem is not new. We stocked up on both sediment filtered water to flush toilets with, and treated and stored potable water. We were tld the problem is drought related which obviously (due to photos) is not the case. In another public forum, it was recently listed things which Panamanians cannot do. First thing is, “keep a promise”. Did Idaan ever promise to correct the problem? Would it matter if they did?

  3. They better get their act together and give residents water that spend all $$ to build and promote Panama. Why doesn’t the Gov’t step in and take care of all this rather than just get into the money they get with building Condos and all the rest. Look at Panama City with their problems. Look at people that need water to live.

  4. Panama is not like the USA. The infrastructure in not in place before people move in to settle the area. Even if the water supply is available, the chances are that it was never designed to handle the number of households that are now connected.
    This is not an excuse, it is just how it is. If the problems are to be solved, the entire community will have to get together and decide on a plan. The developers that profited from the wave of expats are gone and have taken their money with them.

  5. I think it would be in the best of interests of Panama if IDAAN was privatized. Have some private company take responsibility. Perhaps they would find it cheaper to install metal pipes that do not break/rupture as opposed to the plastic PCV pipes installed. Perhaps they could take planning into account before new communities are build. RESPONSIBILITY is the key word here!!

  6. Talk to any Panamanian and say the word “planning” and see what response you get. There is no such thing here, and everyone knows it. And I have to say that I’m not sure privatization would be ok here. Given what we’ve seen in the past few years, considering the type of people who are most likely to get the contracts, I think it would be even worse than the situation is now. At least now there is some sense of commitment on the part of the IDAAN workers towards the community–not much, but some. Privatize–and you put the water supply in the hands of people who simply do not care–all they want is the money.

    I’m not sure “responsibility” is in the Panamanian dictionary.

  7. To Jim and Nena: IT IS NOT THE RESPONSIBILITY OF THE NEIGHBORHOOD TO TAKE CARE OF THIS. It is IDAAN. Panama and Gov’t keeps putting the responsibility of problems to people that are paying and take care of problems. This Gov’t has to stop going to the TOP to get $$$ in and take care of people that built to construct Panama in different locations. i really appreciate what the “locals” are doing but DON’T APPRECIATE WHAT THE GOV’T IS NOT DOING. Your input was tremendous — but, they are putting the problems on people that paid for properties and built and not getting water. WHERE IS THE GOV’T?????? THEY PUT IN ON YOU AND OTHERS NOT GETTING WATER.

  8. Dear Charlotte,

    Welcome to Panama.

    Those of us who have been here a while can repeat until we’re blue in the face to those who are relatively new, “This is NOT the United States (or Canada, or the UK or Germany or…), but no one really believes it until they, too, have been here a while (or else have left).

    And it isn’t just water. Panamanians (and gringos) fix their own roads all the time, for example.

    That’s the way it is. Panama is NOT the US or Canada or the UK or France or Germany or (name the first world country of your choice) on the cheap as so many want it to be. It is a third world Latin American country.

  9. Hi Charlotte,
    I appreciate your frustration but I will repeat a portion of what I posted:
    ” If the problems are to be solved, the entire community will have to get together and decide on a plan. The developers that profited from the wave of expats are gone and have taken their money with them.”

    The government in rural areas (anywhere outside Panama City/Colón/David) is very slow to react and most certainly will not volunteer to fix the infrastructure. IF the area is a gated community, the developers SHOULD fix the problems but as I said, they are probably long gone with their profits. Witness the many communities built around David which have streets that have virtually eroded away.

    When it comes to services like water supply/electricity/sewage etc. those should be handled by the government services responsible but it usually takes the entire affected group banding together to get action.

    One final point I will make: the government provided for all manner of tax breaks to attract expats to the country. The 20 year exemption for new homes is but one of those. Now, explain where the government gets its revenue for fixing infrastructure problems? The same people enjoying those tax breaks are not paying into the system to fix the potholes, broken pipes, lack of police protection, etc. Costa Rica finally figured this out and they have now revoked most of their exemptions which is another reason for the flood of folks who once settled there are now in Panama.

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