Water…How Dry I Am 2

Watertank with Hose

Not Quite Hooked Up, But Still Useful

As we approach the end of the dry season here in Panamá’s Azuero Penninsula, many of the smaller towns are running out of water. Here in Peña Blanca we have our own water supply, and we have been on severe water rationing for two weeks.

When I say ‘rationing,’ I don’t refer to the voluntary use of less water we associate that with in the States. No. Here, the water authority just cuts it off. Twice a day, around 5am and then again, around 5pm they turn it back on for an hour or so and we all run about with buckets, catching what trickles from the faucets for later use.

The more well off have what are essentially bigger buckets. Besides volume, these also have the advantage of (usually) being hooked into the individual home water system. (These are the big blue water tanks I wrote about last year in Las Tablas.)

We who are not yet blessed with a blue tank maintain a series of mostly white and yellow five gallon buckets of the sort used to supply restaurants with cooking oil, pickles and such.

Although to this point I have only once completely emptied one bucket between fill-ups, I think it might be time to bring a third bucket into play. This morning at 5 there wasn’t even the usual trickle. I have a bucket formerly dedicated to utility work still empty. So, IF, and I say IF – if we have water this evening, I’ll fill that one so I have something to give my very thirsty potted plants. They seem so grateful when I give them even a cupful.

The official end of the dry season is May 1, though it can vary two to three weeks either way. I sincerely hope that this year it is on time. Although with That Which Cannot Be Mentioned in Florida* in play, who knows? All we can do is pray, and maybe try a rain dance. I guess the Panamanians never got into rain dancing because the rain has usually been so timely (and, in season, so plentiful) in the past.

I was curious about how much water I’m NOT using right now, so I checked the water usage stats handily provided by the US gov. (See below.) It seems the list below averages out to between 80 and 100 gallons per person, per day. That’s significant. My 15 gallons won’t last long at that rate. I can get by with about a gallon for a personal wash and rinse, maybe two or three for cooking and dishwashing, another gallon for teeth and hands during the day and I fear the inodoro (toilet) just has to stay stinky. I think I may take the laundry to town. I believe they still have water in Las Tablas, as the town is on the IDAAN water system. (That’s the one that had the atrazine scare last year.)

Typical water use at home

Bath A full tub is about 36 gallons. Newer bath faucets use about 1 gallon per minute, whereas older models use over 2 gallons.
Shower 2-2.5 gallons per minute. Old shower heads use as much as 4 gallons per minute.
Teeth brushing 1 gallon, especially if water is turned off while brushing. Newer bath faucets use about 1 gallon per minute, whereas older models use over 2 gallons.
Hands/face washing 1 gallon
Face/leg shaving 1 gallon
Dishwasher 20 gallons/load, depending of efficiency of dishwasher
Dishwashing by hand: 4 gallons/minute for old faucets.. Newer kitchen faucets use about 1-2 gallons per minutes.
Clothes washer 25 gallons/load for newer washers. Older models use about 40 gallons per load.
Toilet flush 3 gallons for older models. Most all new toilets use 1.2-1.6 gallons per flush.
Glasses of water drunk 8 oz. per glass
Outdoor watering 2 gallons per minute


2 thoughts on “Water…How Dry I Am

  • 4sarge

    Other than the 5 gallons of filtered water that we use for coffee & cooking have I ever calculated usage. I’d say our biggest use are for showers, clothes washer, & toilet flushing. I collect rain water for animals, and garden use. We use a well so our use isn’t metered. I have about 60 gallons of filtered water stored for emergency use. You have a much Warmer Climate and year round growing where I have only a limited 4 or so month window of use that I attempt to control with rain water.

    • JK Mikals Post author

      Well, actually, between mid to late December and May it is the “dry season” here, not really a growing season at all. During that time it doesn’t rain at all, there is just unrelenting sun, very hot sun, and unless you have a good water supply, everything just dries up. Most of the native plants have adapted to this – they have incredibly deep tap roots or go dormant. Or die. The land is cracked right now – deep cracks. Many trees have dropped all their leaves, others have simply curled theirs up. You can almost hear their thirst. What amazes me most are a couple of unattended cherry tomato plants in my landlady’s yard. She NEVER waters them, and yet they are still bearing. Life is persistent here.

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