Panama Water Project



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Providing Clean Water In Panama

As a member of Rotary District 6270, we support the Panama Water Project, along with other clubs in our district.  In providing information about some of the ideals of this project, the Ripon Rotary Club tells about a very special person, Father Wally Kasuboski. 

Father Kasuboski, a Capuchin priest of the Franciscan Order, and a native of Ripon, Wisconsin, has lived in the backcountry of Panama since 1988, serving the spiritual and temporal needs of a parish of 2,500 square miles and 30,000 people in more than 40 villages. Between masses, baptisms, marriages, and burials, “Padre Pablo,” as the locals call him, works to improve the lives of his mostly poor parishioners, by helping them and teaching them to help themselves.

He has taught men to be carpenters, welders, drivers, masons, and roofers, and women to be seamstresses. With mostly local labor and materials, and at minimal cost, they have built schools, churches, and bridges, and improved and maintained the few local roads.

Among their most ambitious efforts are several successful water projects that deliver fresh, safe water to many of the villages in the parish. These and other projects are described on Father Wally’s Website.

When Pablo Padre first arrived in Panama in 1988, many of the residents of these isolated villages were sick or dying for lack of safe water. At best, they were riddled with intestinal parasites; at worst, they were dying of cholera and dysentery. During the 3- to 4- month dry season, many of them had to walk several days to find any water at all, and then draw it from contaminated rivers. Local wells offer only putrid, tainted water year-round.

Father Wally helped the locals set up several water projects to deliver safe water directly to the villages. The largest of these is the Canasas water project. Drawing water from a stream high in the mountains, ten miles of PVC pipe feeds a number of 65,000+ gallon tanks along the Pan-American Highway. From there, the water flows by gravity through a 4-inch water main 25 miles long. The water main brings potable water to over 800 homes in 13 villages.

Despite their crushing poverty, residents of those villages assessed themselves for funds to help build the water project. To maintain the system, local utility boards -- not led by Father Wally -- charge each household based on their usage.

One Rotarian wrote after a working visit to Father Wally’s parish, “Wally has no tolerance and little time for those who aren’t willing to help themselves.” And the local people have proven themselves more than willing to work hard for their own future. Their projects have won the support of the Panamanian government and of Rotary Clubs in Panama.

The locals “think it’s a miracle that they have water every day,” Father Wally says. But during the annual 3- to 4-month dry season, mountain streams like the one that feeds the water system slow to a trickle or dry up altogether. To meet current needs year-round, and to bring clean water to more villages, the system needs a reservoir and dam.

On donated time, hydraulic engineers have located a site for a dam 14 meters high on the same high mountain stream now used as source for the water system. The dam and its reservoir will contain adequate water reserves to provide potable water year-round, for the basic needs of villagers in the district. The dam will be built with local labor and materials and with donations���of money, tools, materials, and labor—from Rotary and other sources.

The future of the project may include construction of a micro-hydroelectric station at the dam, generating up to 400kw during the 8����-month rainy season, to serve 250 to 270 households in the region.

Rotary International has identified clean water as one of its priorities for international service, and the Padre Pablo Dam and Reservoir project is a perfect fit.