Liz Larroquette
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Water, Water, Not Exactly Everywhere!

Tap drop ocean

Panama has a love hate relationship with water. We are the fifth largest country in the world in terms of rainfall and the Panama Canal is completely dependent on having adequate water to operate. We are a tiny country surrounded by two oceans and a network of waterways. To say water is important to us is an understatement, along with one of those checklist items to consider when purchasing property. Coming from highly developed countries, many of my clients don't think about water, but it’s my job to remind them that water is a main check-list item.

A Nation's Lifeblood

waterk tanks and trees

There are five consortiums bidding to build a water treatment plant in Gamboa, Panama

For the most part, Panama’s water is clean and completely drinkable with the exception of small parts of rural Panama, mostly inhabited by indigenous tribes. In recent years, the Panamanian Government has committed considerable resources to improving clean and adequate water for the at least 98% of the residents. A huge multi-million dollar project is on-going dredging waterways around Panama City and that project includes infrastructure that ensures clean sanitation along with clean water.

Nonetheless, water is a concern. Last year, 2016, was one of the driest years on record. The “wet season” extends from April to early December and produces somewhere around 80 inches annually for most of Panama. That seems like a lot of water—and it is—but remember the Panama Canal is wholly dependent on having adequate water to operate. With the opening of the third canal in 2016, the water needs jumped by 60%. Couple that with less rainfall and there was barely enough water to supply Panama.

"When The Well's Dry, We Know The Worth of Water"

water truck palm trees

During the dry season, it's not unusual for water trucks to bring an additional water supply

In Coronado, the area lined with beach and vacation homes, about a 50-minute drive from Panama City, the water situation is more complicated. Located in the “dry arc”, Coronado has a reduced rainy season (May to November) and simply less rainfall, or about 69 inches annually. Last year, many of the existing condominiums were forced to deal with hours each day without water. It wasn’t unusual for management companies to shut the water off during every day of the dry season. “We simply didn’t have adequate resources” said one manager of a Coronado condominium tower. “We’d order water from a supplier and they would only bring half of the order,” she continued. “I don’t want to live through that again.”

Fortunately she won’t need to, since today, that complex has a private water well, but the residents were each assessed over $1,000 to pay for the well. I was never sure if the residents were upset about the assessment or the fact they didn’t have water during many of the hottest days in Panama.

Planning Well

With global warming, it is likely more dry years are on the way, so when considering buying property, my advice is to consider the water. For example, Royal Palm, the two-tower residential building with 21 and 28 floors of residences, already has their own water well in place. Since Royal Palm is located in the “dry arc”, that well will ensure that residents do not need to worry about the rain fall during any season.

bathroom Royal Palm

60,000 gal. reserve water tanks and a water pump system will ensure you can use your beautiful bathroom at Royal Palm even in dry season!

The multiple residential towers being built in Costa del Este, one of Panama hottest new areas, mostly have water wells as an integral part of the construction, but all do not. It is becoming less and less likely that water wells will be included, but it’s one more reason to make sure your builder has that as a given.

“It never entered my mind to think about water—or more accurately—not having water, but it got old quickly,” said one resident living in Coronado, “every day, we’d get messages slipped under our door announcing the water would be shut off from 9:00 am to 9:00 pm. I know people were filling bath tubs during the night, but what a hassle. Of course you want to be able to flush the toilet!”

Water On My Mind

I dislike having to bring up water issues because it turns back the clock for Panama. All of a sudden we are a “third world country”, but we really aren’t! We have beautiful buildings in Costa del Este such as Matisse where the entry price is around $1.3 million and Le Marque where the prices start at $800,000. Then we have Arcadia with prices beginning at less than $300,000.

Projects such as these shouldn’t have to worry about water, and the good news is buyers don’t need to worry because the builder, Empresas Bern, has already come up with the answers.

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About the Author Liz Larroquette

Whether you are looking to retire in Panama, relocate your family, or buy property as an investment Liz is a wealth of knowledge you can and should tap into.

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