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Drinking the Water in Panama - Is it Safe?

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Written by Matt   
Wednesday, 01 October 2008 10:03
Panama WaterWhen asked if the tap water is safe to drink in Panama, treat most locals will answer yes without thinking twice. It's a common known fact that Panama City's water quality is among the best in the region, buy but acquiring that respect didn't come without significant distress. Several years ago, malady the ministry of health announced Panama City would be without running water every other Sunday for nearly half a year. "In an effort to improve the City's tap water system," my neighbor told me, "it was apparently the only logical solution of the bunch." "I'm sorry," I said, standing in my doorway wearing only a towel. "Did you just describe the process of cutting off water to one million people for twenty four hours over consecutive weekends using the word logical?"

Cutting the water would be the first of many "logical" solutions to public works hazards I would encounter during my time in Panama: an event authorized presumably in a government ledger below the President's formal stance on Bozo the clown and the Governor's serious objection to baby corn.

Sundays in Panama City are comparatively silent to the rest of the week, so if they got anything right, it was selecting a day that all the smelly folks would more or less stay at home. Building up to my first Sunday of suffering (as I like to call it) I had mentally prepared myself much like Muslims before Ramadan or cafeteria line workers prior to a wide scale hunger strike. Organizationally, I had prepared with plenty of activities and distractions to take my mind off not having water...but the reality soon became too hard to cover up.

It was not several hours into my morning that I realized, despite picking up buckets of hand sanitizers and bags of pre-washed lettuces, I had forgotten to buy spring water at the supermarket. This was an act akin to forgetting your machete in the Amazon or your sherpa on K2. I sat at my dining room table, tapping my finger with a mouthful of toothpaste, looking ominously at an old bottle of Squirt sitting beside me on the counter. It was the sort of optimistic look a homeless man might make when spotting some fresh road kill as if to shrug and say, "eh, that'll do."

Later on in the day I was scheduled to go for a jog and neglected to consider the two reasonable things one might want to do after a jog: shower and drink fluids. It was overlooking precisely these kinds of intricacies that characterized me as a first timer.

I had a large reserve of Gatorade, two bottles of which I downed immediately upon entering the apartment, not thinking whatsoever of their need to sometime exit my body in the form of urine. "Stagnant urine in a toilet smells very bad" I remembered reading somewhere, so I snuck across the street and peed on the back wheel of my landlord's Yaris. Similarly thickheaded, I had bought a commercial-sized canister of baby wipes, which were just what they sounded like: for a baby or at least for body parts the size of a baby. I cleaned myself off with a quantity of wipes that would have sanitized an orphanage in Sudan.

My first Sunday without water in Panama City, as well as the remainder of Sundays without water, went on to be plagued by a number of unforeseen casualties. It was a time I will remember vividly, the way soldiers remember basic training. As though I was suffering but for a good cause.

Is the water in Panama safe to drink? a visitor might ask and I'll admit with a grimace that it is.

It's as if I've been through a rite of passage, much like a fraternity hazing, and they've simply escaped unscathed, expecting that clean drinking water in Panama arrived without a price. I'll then launch into a guilt trip about my pain and suffering and try, if for just a second, to recount those awful days aloud for the world to hear. For commemorative purposes of course.

Comments (3)Add Comment
Are you sure?
written by RK , October 03, 2008
Matt, nice to see that you are updating again, and faster than you ever have. But, are you sure it's safe to drink? They were supposed to make it better, but did they? Are there any lab tests?
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You're an idiot
written by Doesn't matter , July 01, 2011
You didn't buy water, decided to go for a run, and peed on plants outside... despite your claim to have made preparations, you clearly have no idea how to go without water.

For future reference, ask any resident of Florida where hurricanes frequently wipe out the water system how to prepare. Buckets of water to flush the toilets, and shower with if you want, and make friends with people with pools.

And don't go for a run on the one day you can't shower thinking baby wipes will refresh you. Seriously, why didn't you just opt for a mud bath and sauna treatment as well? Idiot.
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written by larissa , May 27, 2012
i have visited Panama n stayed the entire summer since i was a small child and the water is safe and chlorinated... the water purification system was made by the US government.
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Last Updated on Wednesday, 01 October 2008 10:13