I have never been to a New England Town Meeting, I have however been to many meetings of the Alto Jaramillo Water board. Water Boarding is painful, the board of seven is elected to a two year term and we serve without any compensation. We, is operative because for more than three years I have held the lowest elected position in the Republic of Panama, vocal on the Alto Jaramillo Water Board. One of seven elected by a majority at an annual meeting of the over one hundred households in the water district.
Today we had an emergency community meeting in the Alto Jaramillo school to explain to the community why many people have not had water for weeks and what we, as a board have been doing to resolve the problem. Our public meetings are long and occasionally chaotic. Since they are all bilingual in our very bilingual community, they are twice as long and half as effective.
What our users do not see are the endless smaller meetings and work that goes on with ANAM, MINSA and others trying to keep the system working. For the past year, two board members, Rosa and Carlos have carried most of that burden.
Neither the board nor the users created the current problem, drought created the problem. With the help of people in the community and the expenditure of about $1,000 we have done a temporary fix extending to current aqueduct higher to another creek.
I suspect most people living in Boquete have no idea of where our water comes from, they turn the tap and assume water will flow, most of the time it does, but not always. For democracy to work the population needs to understand the issues, so here is a primer.
Water for all of the many water districts in Boquete comes from mountain streams. In Alto Jaramillo it comes from a stream in an area called Cerro Azul on Jaramillo. In this district we do not pay for water, it is free, we pay for the distribution to our homes.
Getting to the source of the water is a ride until the road ends, followed by a hike up into pristine forest. You can see a 2″ PVC aqueduct in the upper left of this photo of our group walking to the “ojo de aqua” the start of the aqueduct. The Ojo de aqua is a stream that is partially redirected into what is called a tomb, a concrete box with a aqueduct pipe, in this case 2″ PVC.
The water then enters the aqueduct and is routed downhill into more holding tanks with more pipes routing through to different tanks and homes.
Water from several Ojo’s is often aggregated in one tomb to provide enough for downhill flow.
Then water routes into still larger tanks near most of the users. In a normal year these tanks fill at night when the demand is low and empty during the day. This year the streams are flowing too slowly to fill the tanks and we have had users without water.
Our short term fix has been to add more pipe up to another stream that is still running. The problem is that unless it rains soon that stream will also run dry.
Boquete might he the land or perpetual spring but if we do not see a lot of rain soon we and other water districts will be running dry soon. No water board can do more than maintain the plumbing, the rain depends on a capricious mother nature and climate change is playng havoc with her.