I wouldn’t drink the water in Bocas Del Toro and most people don’t. We do have vending machines around town that filter water you can buy.
Most people collect their water from the roof. We do that in our house here. We collect water from the roof of our house and triple filter it. I have an island style home that has zinc gutters on the roof. When it rains, it washes off the zinc roof and we have what’s called here a roof washer. The roof washer removes the debris and runs it to another tube and then it slowly fills up the regular tank. The first thing that comes out of the tank is a regular string filter and then farther down, there is another type of filter, and finally, in the kitchen, we have a very strong micro filter. So the water goes through three filters; the last one being a micro filter, and we’ve been drinking the water from this system for years. You just have to maintain your tank.
Water management is very very important here in Bocas Del Toro. You have to watch the water levels. In the drier months, you tend to take shorter showers and in the rainy months, you can stay in the shower longer.
Our house is also connected to the Carenero city water network. We live on Carenero, which is the island next to the main island of Bocas Del Toro. There is an underground tube that comes through it and supplies most of the water on our side of the town and on the other side as well. We just choose not to use it because we have enough rain water to use every month, but the water bill is $15 per month whether you use the city water or not.
But as far as just opening the tap and drinking the water from there, I just personally wouldn’t do it here in Bocas Del Toro. Our water tank setup only costs $1 per gallon, so if you have a 1,000 gallon tank, you will spend about $1,000. The rest of the setup is just PVC pipe and filters so it doesn’t cost that much. The gutter also does not cost much. Once you have already installed the gutter and your PVC piping, the rest comes very easy. You just have to have a pressurized pump for the water to be pumped up to your own plumbing. A pressurized pump costs around $550. The gutter costs about $1 per foot.
Anybody here in Bocas Del Toro who lives off the grid has a water system in their house. Carenero is serviced by the main island of Isla Colon, where Bocas Town is, but a city water supply is available only on this particular island. However, Bastimentos, which is close by has its own water source and it supplies all of its citizens with water. In addition to that, most people in Bastimentos who are receiving city water do as we do, and prefer to get their water off of the roof.
(Waterfront house on Isla Canenero across from Bocas del Toro, Panama, pictured.)