Water. It’s 71% of the Earth’s surface, 60% of our bodies and 100% involved in our daily routines. Modern living makes it available for many to be fortunate enough to access it at the flick of a wrist. However in recent years, sometimes it doesn’t rain for a while or excited tourists flood the island in record numbers and when you turn the faucet, you are met the depressing sound of a “drip, drip, (silence)…” Maybe you left your toilet running and your tank has gone empty, or perhaps the town reservoir has gone dry. The Breeze sat down with Tito Thomas (Hotel Gran Bahia and resident Bocas Historian) to talk about the history of H₂O in BDT. We also chatted with Arturo Romero, president of Dos Mares Port Services, S.A., the company in charge of dredging the town reservoir and adding an impressive 55,000 cubic meters of area for water to be deposited so that droves of excited tourists can visit the islands and be able to take their much deserved post-beach showers.
History of Water in Bocas
The Bocas town reservoir is located in the part of town known as “Big Creek.” It is man-made and was completed in the year 1965. Before the reservoir came into the scene in the 60’s, everyone had wooden tanks and some had their own catchment systems on their roofs. There were also about 5 humongous concrete tanks, fed by catchment systems as well and they were public. One was located at El Reloj (currently Selina Hostel). People would bring water into their homes with buckets; from these public tanks and also from Big Creek. Every once in a while there were dry spells and water would have to be sent from Almirante on barges. Some time in the early 60’s the contract was given to dig the reservoir and lay the ground work for the water supply system we have today.
2016 Reservoir Expansion Project
Dos Mares Port Services, S.A. was awarded this $3.3 million contract for the dredging and cleaning of the reservoir by President Varela with the start date of the project set for February 1st, 2016 after winning the public bidding process which offered the best proposal and methodology for this project. The dredging crew was delayed awaiting the results of the Ministry of Environment impact study. Once they were approved they broke ground on April 18th and the projected end date is October 27th of this year. The 55,000 cubic meter dredging represents a nearly 50% increase in area for IDAAN to deposit water; great news for residents and businesses catering to tourism in Bocas del Toro.
Dos Mares Port Services, S.A.
Dos Mares Port Services, S.A. is a 100% Panamanian company with 17 years specializing in dredging, crane rentals and stevedoring service of large vessels at Panamanian ports. Their operating personnel carries over 40 years of experience in dredging. They have dredged many rivers and sea water tidelands for different industries as well as hydroelectric plant reservoirs. “We are taking all the necessary measures to ensure that the project is managed day by day as we have planned from the very beginning because this is water that will later be treated to be drinking water,” says Dos Mares President Arturo Romero who proudly drinks himself: “I drink this water myself because I truly believe in the project we are carrying out.”
Tito Thomas, 70 year resident of Bocas who also drinks the water says “The water is perfectly potable. For the people who are not here regularly, I would say don’t drink it because you may have a little disruption of your system since your body is not used to it, but yes- it is good water.”
Ok, so the consensus is that Bocas del Toro water is drinkable but if you haven’t spent much time on the islands thus far; please proceed with caution. Either way, after the work of Dos Mares is done, it looks like the community of Bocas del Toro may not have to worry about shortages in the town water supply in the foreseeable future. Great news!
Thank you Tito Thomas and Arturo Romero for your interviews. Stay tuned in upcoming issues on news about other big construction projects in Bocas del Toro.