Another Water Crisis in the Azuero in Panama Causes a Plan B for the Tour

In Panama you learn to have a Plan B and Plan C every day because things don’t always turn out as planned.

That was certainly the case for the first day of the September Panama Relocation Tour.  The day before the tour started it was announced that the water in all of the Azuero was poisoned.  This is the second time in less than three months that they have had the same problem.  No drinking water.  The water cannot even be used for cooking or bathing.  We usually visit the Azuero during the tour but there was no way I was going to put tour guest’s health at risk with poisoined water.  You won’t read about water problems in the Azuero in the various International publications.

Here’s the notification I received:

Health Minister, Francisco Javier Terriente made the announcement at at a hastily called press conference on Thursday night.
The 14 districts in which the suspension of water consumption is requested are: Chitre, La Arena, Monagrillo, San Juan Bautista, Llano Bonito, La Villa, Los Olivos, Santa Ana, Llano Largo, Las Tablas, El Carate, El Cocal, Guararé and La Enea.

Terriente said that the authorities of the Ministry of Health (MoH) were made weekly measurements from Julyand all showed a level below 1 part per billion.but this week it jumped to 13 parts per billion “Although this is a low-toxicity, the detected levels are now above the limits accepted by Panama,” he said.  Asked about the causes of elevated levels of atrazine, Terrientes said the MoH, the National Environmental Authority (ANAM) and the Ministry of Agricultural Development (MIDA) are conducting investigations to determine who is responsible for the situation, as the MoH had suspended the use of atrazine in the area.

An operational support program has been launched including the distribution of water to every home under the 14 community boards and the respective municipalitiesthe operation will continue until the daily tests indicate that the situation returned to normal. “From this time, the distribution of 50 000 cases of bottled water to supply every house begins,” said the MoH in a statement.
Water samples will be taken every 24 hours until there are no detectable levels of atrazine

Later the US Embassy put out this warning:

The American Citizen Services Unit would like to alert U.S. citizens residing and/or traveling in the Azuero Region about a water contamination issue.  Please visit the following link to see the announcement that Panama’s Ministry of Health (MINSA) placed on their facebook page:

This announcement included recommendations from Panama’s Red Cross regarding water usage in this region.  The Red Cross guidance states that water in this region is not currently suitable for drinking, cooking, bathing children under age 2, or consumption by pets.  The guidance states that water in this region can be used for bathing, washing clothes, household cleaning and watering plants.  

Kind Regards,
American Citizen Services
U.S. Embassy Panama

To make matters worse, the morning of the tour it was pouring down rain.  Even in the rainy season it is very unusual to have rain in the morning.  Time for a Plan B.  It was still pouring down rain after lunch so instead of driving a big bus on the wet and very windy road to El Valle, we drove the a resort next to the Pacific Ocean to spend the night.  It rained all day the first day of the tour.

Day two was a beautiful sunny day so I made the decision to stay at the resort until after lunch.  We could not go to the Azuero anyway so it made more sense to enjoy the pools, beach and sun at the resort before we continued to Santiago.

Some people in the group enjoyed a new water ride like the video below…


Luckily for the rest of the tour we had good weather during most days with some rain in the late afternoons.

When you get lemons… make lemonaid!

Jackie Lange

Jackie Lange is the founder of Panama Relocation Tours and lives in the highlands of Boquete Panama. She has helped thousands of people relocate to Panama.

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