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Panama - Water

The water supply in Panama is relatively good when compared with other countries in Latin America. The main problem areas are rural regions where the supply is intermittent and tap water is not considered to be safe to drink.

Access to drinking water and sanitation is as much as 90% of the population so those who are living in the cities will have adequate facilities that are comparable with those in the UK and the US. The service is continuous in the cities, although some rural areas will experience breaks in service.

The government body responsible for water and sanitation is the Ministry of Health and the National Authority for Public Services serves as a regulator. There are two agencies which are responsible for water resources; the National Environment Authority and the Panama Canal Authority.

The supply of water is split among a number of providers. Most urban areas are covered by IDAAN, which serves areas that have more than 1500 people living there. The area of Boquete has an independent water supply. Rural areas are served by more than 3000 different systems. Some of these are managed by a rural administration and some are managed by health committees.

Costs for water are not high in Panama, whether you get your water via IDAAN or one of the rural services. Water meters are not widely used and those that do use them are still charged a set rate for the first 10,000 gallons that are used in each month. There are few cost benefits to trying to save water, but it is estimated that the annual water bill for the average home in Panama is usually no more than around $25.

In some areas the use of storage tanks is recommended. As there are often changes in the water pressure and the occasional down time on the supply a water tank can help to make things easier. Pressure is often reduced when there is heavy demand for water and if you have a storage tank it can be used with a pump to supply water when you need it. It is estimated that the average usage for a family can be as high as 250 gallons a day, so you need to ensure that your tank can hold enough to see you through a break in supply. A large family would need a tank in the region of 600 gallons if they thought that they might need to cover a day or two of supply. Smaller tanks are available and are recommended in areas where a break in supply does not happen often.

Some housing developments are served by their own wells so that they do not need a storage tank, although it is considered to be useful as a back-up.

When you move into your new home, the estate agent handling the rental or sale can help you to have your name put onto the account for the water bill, but if you speak Spanish this is easy enough to do yourself. You simply call the company or committee which runs the water supply in your area and give them your details. Each one will have their own regulations about the type of documentation that they will need but they may ask you for copies of your visa documentation to prove that you have the right to live in the country, a copy of your tenancy agreement, confirmation that you are the new owner of the property if applicable or some identification such as a copy of your passport or Panamanian ID card.

Paying the bill is also easy. It can be done in a number of ways. Most people choose to pay their bill online with a credit card or via a direct debit. Those who prefer to pay in cash can do so at a number of places. Most banks can take a payment and there are several offices which are connected to the water companies which can take a payment. It is recommended that you always get a receipt if you choose this method to pay your bill as the processing time can be longer and you may need to produce proof of payment if the water company queries your bill.

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