Saturday, March 29, 2014

Spring Catchment Construction

Panama is lucky to have abundant sources of natural spring water.  Most rural water systems here are gravity fed from a spring meaning they capture water up on a mountain and then pipe it down to a tank at the top of the community and then it flows from there down to all of the homes.  I recently spent a couple days helping a friend work on a few of these in his community.  The photos below were one day of work on a small, single family spring catchment.  

The general idea is that you clear away the topsoil to get to the impermeable or less permeable rock or clay layer that is causing the groundwater to leave where it does.  In my current job, I find lots of spring boxes and catchments that didn't do this and now have water leaving underneath or on the sides of the concrete.

The first step is to build a small dam at the front of what will be your catchment area.  This dam will have the tube going to the tank, a clean out tube at the bottom, and an overflow tube at the top.  You don't want pressure from excess water building up in the catchment, forcing the water to find another place to come out of the ground.

The area is then filled in with rocks.  Large rocks are placed on the bottom to leave channels for the water to freely flow toward the outlet.

Small rocks are placed on top to make a smoother surface to put the concrete "lid" on.

Concrete is dumped on top of the rocks and smoothed out; butting up to the side walls, slightly sloping down toward the front of the catchment, and avoiding any areas where water can pool on top and speed up erosion.

A small box area is made in the front where they will be able to remove a concrete lid to clean out any debris that may accumulate.

Boom done!

Monday, March 24, 2014

Low Rider

That's about as full as they get!

Saturday, March 1, 2014

What came first...

... the chicken or the egg?

... the water tank or the property of the family that has grown around it?!

Benefits: you don't have to worry about people messing with the tank when no one's around!

They live over there.

One of my favorite things about working in the Comarca is that wherever I go, we reach an overlook and people start pointing out the major mountains and the ocean giving me an idea of where we're at.  Then, if I'm with other volunteers, they'll start pointing to the hills and ridges showing me where other volunteers live.  It's fun to think that you can sit in your house and say "It's raining over at Larry's today".  

So!  I have started compiling a series of photos that I'll title "They live over there."  

Hennessy pointing at her school.  Her house is just above it.

I have no idea where he was pointing, but another volunteer lives down in this valley.  Just follow the dirt road and ask for Ido.  Boom, done!

Kenny's house is the wooden one on the top of the hill.

And from the view at Kenny's house, we could see the little speck that is Lucas' house, about a 2 hour hike away.  (On one of the ridges after the close one and before the cloud covered mountain) We pulled out the binoculars to verify!  Creepy, right?!