General Information

Panama City and Bay WWTP
Panama City and Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant


The Republic of Panama, situated on the Isthmus of Panama, has an total area of 75,517 km2 and 2,210 km2 of territorial waters.   It extends 772 km east–west and 185 km north–south.  It is bordered on the north by the Caribbean Sea, on the east by Colombia, on the south by the Pacific Ocean, and on the west by Costa Rica, and has a total boundary length of 555 km, of which 2,490 km is coastline.


Panama is a country of heavily forested hills and mountain ranges. Its terrain is dominated by the mountain corridor that crosses the country from west to east, dividing the country into the Pacific ocean slope (70% of the territory) and the Caribbean (30 % of the territory). Of the 7.55 million hectares of land, 1.7 million are considered arable land and 4.6 million hectares for pasture and forest use. The Panama Canal utilizes a gap in these ranges that runs northwest to southeast and averages only 87 m in altitude.


The continental and insular territory of the Republic of Panama has been divided into 52 watersheds, in which there are more than 300 rivers.   18 of these watersheds are on the Caribbean side and 34 are on the Pacific side.


The average total annual precipitation is around 233.6 km3, and the average surface runoff is 144.1 km3 / year, 60 percent contributed by the Pacific slope and the rest by the Atlantic slope. Basins with greater abundance of water and potential for exploitation are those of the Changuinola-Teribe, Guarumo, Cricamola, Veraguas Calovebora and rivers on the Caribe side and the Pacific side of Chiriqui, Fonseca, Tabasará and Paul Rivers.

The Chagres River with the artificial lakes of Alajuela and Gatun, are the main sources in regulating runoff navigation for the annual operation of the waterway of the Panama Canal (minimum flow rate 2.8 km3 / year).


An important aspect of Panama’s topography is the insular component since about 1,489.9 km2, representing 1.97 % of the total area, is made up of 1,518 islands, islets and cays. Coiba with an area of 493 km2 is the largest island, followed by Isla del Rey which is 234 km2


Panama is tropical, but temperatures vary according to location and altitude.


The economy is based on a well-developed services sector, including the Panama Canal, banking, insurance, government, the trans-Panamanian oil pipeline, and the Colón Free Zone.


Panama's capital city, Panama City, is located where the Panama Canal meets the Gulf of Panama.  The total population is 3.9 million (2014, World Bank).


For more information see:


Current Issues and Challenges in Wastewater ManagementPanama WRI Consultation


(Source: “Regional Sectoral Overview of Wastewater Management in the Wider Caribbean Region. Situational Analysis” prepared by UNEP-CEP/RCU in 2010.)


  • Water supply and sanitation in Panama is characterized by relatively high levels of access compared to other Latin American countries. However, challenges remain, especially in rural areas. According to the Ministry of Health, in 2006, 97 percent had access to at least basic sanitation. However, WHO's and UNICEF's Joint Monitoring Program/2006 estimates access to improved sanitation was 89 percent in urban areas and 54 percent in rural areas. Despite a lack of statistical data about water quality and continuity of supply, potable water is perceived to be of good quality in Panama and most users receive continuous service.


  • While average water and sanitation coverage in Panama is high by regional standards, there are still gaps in rural and, in particular, indigenous areas. Sanitation coverage is estimated at 90 percent in rural areas (27 percent for septic tanks and sewers) and 47 percent in indigenous areas (0 percent for septic tanks and sewers). Urban coverage with sewers and septic tanks is estimated at 77 percent, but it is only 45 percent in the lowest quintile in urban areas.


  • Service quality is often poor in areas officially defined as having coverage. While there are no reliable data on service quality, there is anecdotal evidence and frequent press coverage of supply interruptions. Although water quality is perceived as being good, there are only limited data on water quality, in particular in rural areas. Less than one-fifth of wastewater collected receives any form of treatment.


  • Many rural water systems suffer from sustainability issues. These include mismanagement of water sources, and insufficient tariff levels to ensure proper operation and maintenance. In addition, inappropriate hygiene practices limit the health impacts from the improvements in water and sanitation systems.


  • In urban areas, the national water utility, IDAAN, is by far the largest provider of water and sanitation services. According to the latest Living Standards Measurement Study (LSMS- 2003), about 60 percent of the population of Panama lives in urban areas. IDAAN currently provides about 70 percent of the population of Panama with water. Although water coverage levels are generally high, service quality is often poor and coverage in sewer systems and wastewater treatment lags behind. IDAAN pays relatively scant attention to sanitation compared to water supply. One reason for this is that there is no sewer tariff, providing no incentive to expand access. Every time IDAAN builds sanitation infrastructure, its operation and maintenance costs increase, with no concomitant increase in revenues, which further deteriorates its financial health.


  • The industrial sector evidences a lack of awareness in regards to wastewater management and there is a need to obtain greater compliance with regulations from this sector, including the agricultural sector.


  • The bulk of investments for the water and wastewater sector are in water supply, with much less invested in sanitation.


  • Substantial investments are underway in urban water supply and sanitation in Panama City. Substantial urban water supply investments are financed by a government trust fund (Fondo Fiduciario de Desarrollo). The resources allocated from this Trust Fund to water and sanitation (US$90 million) are now almost entirely spent, and investments will again have to be financed by regular government expenditures and international loans. A key investment program in the sector is the Panama City and Bay Sanitation Project, implemented by the Ministry of Health, partly funded by the Inter- American Development Bank and the Japanese Overseas Economic Cooperation Fund. This project entails the rechanneling of the sewer system and will benefit 1.4 million inhabitants.  Phase 1 of this project was completed in 2013 with the opening of the Panama City and Bay Wastewater Treatment Plant.


  • Currently, bids for construction and improvements in treatment plants in the provinces of Chiriquí, Los Santos, Herrera, Veraguas and Colon are being performed.


  • The legal framework is strong.


  •  Laws governing aspects of the wastewater sector include:
  • Law 66 (1947), which created the Health Code of the Republic of Panama that controls excreta disposal, the collection, treatment and sanitary disposal of septage and sewage treatment Law No. 2 (known as the Water Law) (1997), which dictates the regulatory and institutional framework for the provision of safe water and sanitation
  • Law 77 (2001), which organizes and modernizes the Institute of National Aqueducts and Sewers Authority Rules and Orders
  • Resolution 78 (1998), which was approved by all parties for standards for the siting, construction and installation of latrines and sanitary requirements. 
  • Executive Decree 202 of 16 May 1990, which created the Interagency Water, Sanitation and Environment Committee.
  • Resolution No.248 of December 16, 1996 of the Ministry of Health, regulating the technical standards for Drinking Water Quality.
  • Resolution No.028 of 31 January 1994 by which the Ministry of Health sets guidelines for water in rural areas.
  • Technical Regulation DGNTI-COPANIT 24-99: Reuse of treated wastewater.
  • Technical RegulationDGNTI-COPANIT 35-2000: Water.Effluent discharges directly into bodies of surface water and groundwater.
  • Technical Regulation DGNTI-COPANIT 39-2000: Liquid effluent discharges directly to water collection systems.

LBS Status

The Government of the Republic of Panama acceded to the LBS Protocol on 9 July 2003 and was one of nine countries to contribute to the entry into force of the Protocol on 13 August 2010.

Key Documents

Coming soon.



More Resources

Coming soon.



What is the CReW?

The CReW is a four-year project that began in 2011. It is funded by the Global Environment Facility (GEF) and implemented by the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) and the United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

Our Location

Project Coordinating Group

Caribbean Regional Fund for Wastewater Management
c/o Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)
40 - 46 Knutsford Boulevard
Kingston 5
Jamaica, W.I.

Phone: +(876) 764-0815


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