Recycling Rainwater with Panama Rainwater

Teaching Kids to Address Climate Change

by Nati Tertusio

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Exploring Instagram recently, our team discovered a fantastic project addressing water shortages and efficient rainwater recycling. The organization is called Panama Rainwater, and specializes in Rainwater Harvesting Systems.

When we heard that they had implemented one of these systems at a school with its own orchard, we couldn't resist interviewing them!

Q: We understand that you are specialists in Rainwater Harvesting Systems (RHS). Can you explain to us what these systems are?

A: RHS are old, efficient, sustainable, and low-cost technologies that seek to intercept rainwater on roofs or floors (surface runoff) to mitigate problems related to water shortages.

According to data from the Comptroller General of the Republic of Panama, more than 50% of the indigenous population lacks access to water that complies with the hygiene and health policies dictated by the government health agencies.

In Panama, these systems represent an excellent alternative for:

  • Water supplies in private homes
  • Agricultural production
  • Maintenance of green spaces
  • Aquifer recharge

With the highest levels of precipitation in Central America (2,928 mm/year), Panama is an excellent candidate for these systems. In addition, the areas where it rains the least still meet the international criteria: "It is profitable to capture rainwater where it rains more than 200mm/year."

Rainwater harvesting also represents a real opportunity to mitigate natural adverse effects like:

  • Drought
  • Climatic variability (The "El NiƱo" Phenomenon)
  • Flooding
  • Storm drains collapse

The five main components of a Rainwater Harvesting System are:

  • Collection area
  • Conduction system
  • Pre-filtered system
  • Storage system
  • Purification system (for human consumption)

Q: Tell us more about your experience at the San Pablo Viejo Arriba school.

A: Panama Rainwater implemented an RHS at San Pablo Viejo Arriba in David, Chiriqui Province, in the Republic of Panama in 2018.

The system holds up to 25,000 liters (6,600 gallons) of water for use in domestic cleaning, toilets, and food cultivation in the school garden.

The purpose of the orchard was to put theory into practice through a "learn by making" system. Here, students grow their food, use water efficiently, and learn different techniques to adapt to climate change.

Then, the same students eat the vegetables, grains, and fruits harvested in their cafeteria.

The system works with:

  • A 0.5 HP hydropneumatic system
  • High caliber PVC gutters
  • A pre-filter tank to retain sediments, leaves and tree bits
  • Flexible hoses
  • Control valves

Q: Do you have a proposal or idea for people to implement this method in homes in the city?

A: We are currently developing an urban model of RHS that suits the needs of the Panamanian market. However, at the moment, there are no fiscal or monetary incentives to implement RHS in cities.

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Thank you Panama Rainwater for sharing with us. This is an incredible way to recycle rainwater and address climate change!

We invite you to check Panama Rainwater Instagram account to know more about their projects here.