Posted by: rainworks | May 24, 2011

Rain Water Harvesting in Bocas del Toro

Non-commercial and rudimentary, but it works: capturing rain in rooftop buckets. Most locals have some sort of capture system, gutters and tanks are everywhere.

After the severe Drought on this Caribbean rain forested island community five years ago, that was shutting down hotels and restaurants, the USA Army engineering corps rebuilt the towns reservoir after installing a temporary humongous desalination plant. There after Panamas  Government installed new water mains throughout Bocas town to replace those 1955 installed pipes most likely ruptured by the 1992 earthquake. Still, there is a daily water shortage due to the massive surge of tourism taking place.

Many new hotels and restaurants install their own RWH systems to compensate for those shortages.

Many expats have settled on various tropical islands (and mainland) living well from captured rainwater. The author too has also lived a healthy life for many years using RWH.

It’s not unusual to sit in a Bocas bar and hear of the good deeds by the “Operation Safe Drinking Water” team. This team led by Joe Bass and Maribel Bass whom continue to donate and install RWH systems to the various island Indian community schools. They also monitor the reduction of intestinal illnesses due to this heartfelt effort.

They are members of “Bocas Sustainable Tourism Alliance” Non-Governmental Organization (NGO), and BESO, Bocas Educational Service Organization whom secure donations/funding for the local indigenous schools. Please take time and read the following post;

Now for a Commercial RWH application.

On a recent vacation back to Bocas del Toro, Panama, I stayed in a rather unique 5 unit bungalow apartment complex. Built by a European expat, it not only uses Cement board throughout to be rot and bug resistant, but it also utilized RWH as the primary water resource. Each unit has a gutter downspout entering that unit’s 300 gallon tank, and an equal overflow pipe connected to the storm drain out to the street. Each storage tank also has an input float valve from the city water supply should there be a rain shortage and the tank level becomes too low. He also included water conservation fixtures in each unit, such as low flow showerheads and low flush toilets.

The follow photos show his existing system.

 Individual unit capture system.

Back-up city water comes from the ground valve. There is a backflow preventer valve added to the systen by code. Note the  overflow output pipe is the same size as the input down spout, this is a must.

All overflow is directed to the storm drain.

There is no end to the many such projects taking place, and the ingenuity of man and sustainable life.



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