Jun. 15, 2016


Julia Guardia

Panama

Julia Guardia

Executive Director, National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN)

TBY talks to Julia Guardia, Executive Director of the National Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (IDAAN), on water scarcity challenges and new technologies.

What has been IDAAN's response to the water scarcity issues in Panama?

We work with the Ministry of Environment to push forward the National Water Security Plan, which is important for securing our natural water resources in the short and long term. We try to mitigate the impact of El Niño through a large-scale well construction program and are constructing around 138 wells throughout the country, with plans for further wells in the future. We also work to deliver water via trucks to our clients in rural communities that are in serious need. To operate our water filtration plants, we build dikes in rivers in some areas that do not have enough flow or depth at the moment due to the diminished flows that occur during summer. We undertake improvements to many water intake pumps and make investments that diminish the weaknesses of our systems, which at the moment are vulnerable to water scarcity. We definitely require a change of water management in the sense that we need to manage our water resources, but also need more awareness amongst the general population. The water scarcity we experienced during the El Niño years, particularly in the countryside, has raised awareness, but habits are slow to change. We have not yet seen a strong lowering of water consumption.

How do you work with other authorities?

We focus on the collection and supply of potable water and the treatment of wastewater, which are our main goals. We work with other sectors on the National Water Security Plan, but as we are the largest water and wastewater operating company, servicing 75% of the Panamanian population, our priority is to service populations that live in cities.

What is your role in the Sanitation of Panama and the Bay project, and who will it benefit?

The Sanitation of Panama and the Bay project is led by the Ministry of Health, and has now been turned into a wastewater collection and water treatment program. It is a strategic project because it will take care of disposing wastewater for the largest areas of Panama City. IDAAN takes care of areas to the north as well as some larger cities of the countryside. In the end, all systems have to converge and be transferred to IDAAN for wastewater lines operations, treatment, and maintenance. This project has been in need of financing. It will be key to promoting health and tourism throughout the city, and will improve the quality of life of many people who live in the largest cities of Panama.

What new technologies are you working on at IDAAN?

We have several partnerships with universities and with CATHALAC, and are in the process of transforming our organization to increase its institutional capacity. We undertake several projects, including a telemetric project that allows for remote management through a network of monitoring points that control Panama's aqueducts. We also include technological projects such as an enterprise resource program to integrate and improve our internal systems. This helps us manage our projects, stock, purchases, and transfers. It will also help merge our operative and commercial areas that currently work independently. We will know when repair crews need materials and can improve our organizational processes. We also work on a geographical information system that covers the whole institution, which will support us as we currently do not have knowledge of where pipes or leakages occur. We also implement micro-metering to lower our consumption, and are starting a pilot to do water metering from large distances. The intelligent micro-metering system will cut services if someone does not pay.

Does the Panama Canal expansion put more pressure on IDAAN?

Around 55% of our water production from our filtration plants comes from the Panama Canal watershed. We have to manage with the canal to make the best use of that water, considering that human consumption is the most important use of our water resources.

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