Date of Award


Document Type

Master's report

Degree Name

Master of Science in Environmental Engineering (MS)

College, School or Department Name

Department of Civil and Environmental Engineering


David Watkins


Gravity-flow aqueducts are used to bring clean water from mountain springs in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé, Panama, to the homes of the indigenous people who reside there. Spring captures enclose a spring to direct the flow of water into the transmission line. Seepage contact springs are most common, with water appearing above either hard basalt bedrock or a dense clay layer. Spring flows vary dramatically during wet and dry seasons, and discharge points of springs can shift, sometimes enough to impact the capture structure and its ability to properly collect all of the available water.

Traditionally, spring captures are concrete boxes. The spring boxes observed by the author were dilapidated or out of alignment with the spring itself, only capturing part of the discharge. An improved design approach was developed that mimics the terrain surrounding the spring source to address these issues. Over the course of a year, three different spring sites were evaluated, and spring captures were designed and constructed based on the new approach. Spring flow data from each case study demonstrate increased flow capture in the improved structures.

Rural water systems, including spring captures, can be sustainably maintained by the Circuit Rider model, a technical support system in which technical assistance is provided for the operation of the water systems. During 2012-2013, the author worked as a Circuit Rider and facilitated a water system improvement project while exploring methods of community empowerment to increase the capacity for system maintenance. Based on these experiences, recommendations are provided to expand the Circuit Rider model in the Comarca Ngäbe-Buglé under the Panamanian Ministry of Health’s Water and Sanitation Project (PASAP)