Panama Project




The program in Isla Popa II was brought to EWB-USA by the Peace Corps volunteer assigned to Isla Popa II. The volunteer served a term from July 2010-June 2012. After three months in the community, the volunteer determined a need for better water quality and proposed the project with the following statement:

“The community does not have a consistent source of water. Although a few have rain water catch systems, many are not sufficient to meet the needs of the family. If the family does not have a catch system, it either uses ‘make shift’ barrels to catch water or in many cases are forced to use well water. I am addressing this water project because as a result of dirty water, there is a lot of sickness in the community. A possible solution to the water problems could be quality rainwater catch systems or possibly an aqueduct. The possibility of an aqueduct was addressed previously, however, the donor fell through and there were insufficient funds for the project.”


The Rensselaer Polytechnic Institute student chapter received the program and began working on the project in November 2010. During the project’s first eighteen months, the Peace Corps volunteer served as the NGO.

From January 7-12, 2012, the chapter completed its first assessment trip, becoming acquainted with the community dynamics and politics, collecting information about the community, and sampling the water and environment for possible contaminants. Preliminary water testing suggested arsenic contamination in the water supply, as well as inadequate water supply during the dryer months.

The second assessment trip was conducted August 12-21, 2012, and focused on finalizing the community agreement and NGO partnership; conducting additional community data collection, water sampling and testing; geographically mapping the area; introducing our presence to new governmental and non-governmental organizations, and continuing to foster a trustful relationship with the community. All goals were achieved.

The first implementation trip was during January 2015.Eight members of Rensselaer’s chapter of Engineers Without Borders traveled to the remote island community of Isla Popa II on the Gulf coast of Panama to construct a sustainable source of clean drinking water. Without access to a reliable source of drinking water, the community’s inhabitants use water collected from unsanitary rainwater collection systems for their daily needs. This water is contaminated with bacteria and is suspected to be responsible for various health problems within the community. While on the trip, Engineers Without Borders, also known as EWB, built a large-scale rainwater collection system in addition to constructing bio-sand filters to purify the collected water. This increased the community’s rainwater collection capacity and provided a treatment method to purify the water.

This past winter break five EWB-RPI members traveled to Panama to finish implementing a water treatment system on Isla Popa II. Upon arrival, we found the previously built rainwater catchment system in disrepair, an unexpected hurdle. With the limited amount of days we had to work, we repaired the system, installed a chlorination treatment system, and educated the community on how to use the new system and about the importance of water treatment. With the coming year, we hope to wrap up this six-year project successfully with one last trip to Isla Popa II.


During the program duration, the chapter has cultivated relationships with several local contacts external to the community, which include EWB Panama, the Floating Doctors, CH2M Hill, and several in-country universities. A local committee, the Water Board, exists for the community to organize its own involvement in the project. The chapter has consistently contacted the community and committee leaders over the duration of the project.


The main problem of this project as deemed by the community and our analysis is that the community does not have a continual source of clean water. Our goal is to be able to provide the community with a solution that will allow them to have access to clean water year-round. This solution will be one that the community is committed to as much as we are. The solution will also be sustainable in the way that the community will be able to support it and maintain it long after the completion of the project.

Below is some of the chapter’s most recent documentation on what will be implemented in January 2015 including the design drawings and the revisions that were made for approval to travel. A copy of the TAC presentation is also available below. In addition, some of our documentation is available from the team’s third assessment trip. If additional documentation is desired, please contact EWB-RPI.

Implementation January 2016

      pdf                  pdf
    526 Jan 2016             525 Jan 2016

Assessment August 2013

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