Panama Canal: Greatest Drinkable Water Source

The Republic of Panama, also known as the “Crossroads of the World”, is a vast country full of diverse cultures, many animal and plant specimens, and a wide spread of agriculture. Panama is located in Central America, on a slim piece of land (Isthmus of Panama) that connects the continents of North and South America. The country’s population is about 4,246,439 as of October 1st, 2019 according to the United Nations research data.

Because Panama is located between the Pacific and the Atlantic ocean, it has a tropical marine climate. Though the weather varies based on the time of the year, it is usually hot, humid, and rainy overall. The climate plays a big role in the environment, as it provides sunlight, water (rain), and soil for their crops. Agricultural products include bananas, cocoa and coffee beans, coconuts, soybeans, rice, and sugarcane. The ocean is also a major food source, as it provides seafood such as shrimp, crab, fish, etc.

Panama is a Latin-American country, meaning its official language is Spanish. Though the overall Panamanian culture originates from its Latin identity, Panama had adopted some aspects of food and traditions from distant places such as the Middle East, the Caribbean, Asia, and Africa. Some popular traditional Panamanian dishes include Ropa Vieja (seasoned and shredded beef), Tostones (fried plantains served with ketchup), and Carne Guisada (beef meat and potatoes). People eat these dishes in traditions such as Fiestas Patrias, which celebrates the separation from Columbia, and Carnaval de las Tablas which celebrates the Catholic viewpoint of Lent and takes place four days before Ash Wednesday. People typically share the same culture, their lifestyles vary on the areas they live. Urban areas have a more developed and modern lifestyle, while rural areas have a more traditional way of life.

Panama is greatly known for its canal, which is its greatest drinkable water source. The Panama Canal provides about 75% of the country with clean water and is used in the citizens’ everyday lives. Though, about 840,000 people of the total population do not have access to this clean water. People have been relying on the little purified water sent in delivery trucks. The scarce supply has been caused by agricultural water pollution, which has also been a growing problem in many other countries. Toxic infestations such as pesticides, fertilizer, and animal droppings contaminate the organic water used for daily necessities such as cooking and drinking. As time goes on, more and more people are being affected by this due to very little political support. According to the Council on Hemispheric Affairs, “The national food industry continues to drive agricultural production without pause to address water quality side effects.” The Panamanian government has not funded nor put any effort to decrease pollution.

Another key factor in the limited water supply involves the drought. In the past years, Panama has experienced drought due to climate change. The water levels have decreased in the canal, which has also affected its ship transportation. The water pollution and shortage are beginning to lead to other problems such as soil erosion/land degradation, and poisoning of fishery resources. The chemicals that are present in the unfiltered water contaminate the soil, which leads to limited farmland. It will also put the health of land and water animals at risk, limiting another food resources. If the pollution of water continues, it can greatly change Panama’s economy and lifestyle. Resources will grow in price, and food/water will become limited and rationed. However, there are many ways to limit and prevent growing problems caused by contaminated water.

One possible solution is to partner with an organization that can help filter the water such as AdEdge Water Technologies LLC (AEWT). The company has done many projects with countries around the world such as Italy, Australia, Nigeria, the Philippines, Chile, and Puerto Rico. AWT's main focus is to provide citizens with purified water by sending and installing a water filter. The type of filter varies based on the quality of the water, the amount of people in the area, and the price range. Because Panama’s water is contaminated by agricultural runoff such as fertilizer, the active carbon filtration process, which uses the chemical carbon to kill the bacteria in the water, will be most effective as it strongly filters out organic pollution such as pesticides. The company offers two equally effective filters: personal systems installed at each home and public plants developed in the center of a community. In order for this to happen, the government will need to conduct an economic analysis based on how much money is needed to determine which type of system will be most affordable to the people and the government. The total cost of each system is about $1,501,237 in Panamanian Balboa or $1.5 million U.S. dollars. To effectively raise this money, the government can add an extra sales tax, add a fee for those who cross through the Panama Canal and create a foundation where anyone can donate. The filtration system will allow people who live far from major cities to have a source of clean water. Clean water will also benefit people’s health and decrease the chances of diseases and infections.

In addition, the government should find ways to help prevent and limit the amount of pollution entering the water. According to the Pesticide Environmental Stewardship (PES), there are many management strategies and practices that can reduce agricultural runoff. Some practices include crop rotation, which prevents many pesticides from staying on the crops, covered crops, which help the soil’s organic matter, proper drainage, which is an irrigation system that reduces the amount of agricultural runoff, and proper equipment use, which prevents the compaction of soil and also limits runoff. Beginning these strategic practices will improve the quality of the water and allow for safer agriculture.  

07 July 2022
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