Here in Mal Pais, Santa Teresa, water is a big part of our community. We not only rely on it for our health, our surf, our jungles, our selfs but also for building & overall living. With each passing “rainy” season we all hope for plentiful rainfall however it seems to be less and less every year. Thankfully we have the wonderful & dedicated Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers working hard & long to provide our town with the help, education & programs we lack in regards to clean water. We sat down with one of their hardworking representatives, Carolina Chavarría, and got some new & exciting information pertaining to the organization itself & the newly announced (and highly anticipated!!) aqueduct project for our area! Read the full interview with Carolina below:
1) What is Nicoya Penisula Waterkeeper?
Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper (www.nicoyawaterkeeper.org) is a non for profit organization working for clean water in the Southern end of the Nicoya Peninsula, on Costa Rica’s Pacific Coast. Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper is a member of the Waterkeeper Alliance (www.waterkeeper.org), a global network of over 250 Waterkeeper Organizations around the world dedicated to cleaning up rivers, lakes and coasts through grassroots action.
Each Waterkeeper Organization fights against the main sources of water pollution in their geographical area. On our coastal area, the main problem is poor solid waste management and a generalized lack of knowledge on how to treat and dispose of wastewater. We live in a beautiful place, we need to keep it clean for present and future generations to enjoy!
2) What are your projects in the Nicoya Peninsula?
We are working on restructuring the town’s waste management system. We are creating an efficient recycling structure. For now, we organize monthly recycling campaigns where residents can bring their recyclables. In the next months, we will have pick up routes for the community and businesses. The goal is to reduce the amount of waste that gets to the dumpsite. We are all responsible of what we consume and the way we dispose of our waste. If you recycle and compost your organics, your waste is cut down by more than half!
We have installed a communitarian biodigestor that converts grease from grease traps into biogas. We have around 100 restaurants between Mal País and Manzanillo. This biodigestor is the only option for local restaurants to dispose of their grease in a sustainable way. For now, the restaurants just clean their grease traps and throw this waste into their trash cans. With the biodigestor, we avoid this grease –which is VERY POLLUTING- from getting to our water and from generating Green House Effect gases at the dumpsite.
We also provide free advice to houses our businesses on how to treat their grey and black waters. If we want to keep this place clean, we have to correct the way we treat our water. We organize clean-ups, free workshops, and events to educate the community. When it’s about water, we’re there.
3) Tell us about the exciting new Aqueduct Project?
The aqueduct is something everyone has been waiting for and it’s finally happening!
The AyA (National Aqueduct and Sewage Institute) awarded the public bid for the project in December 2015 to the company Proyectos Turbina S.A.. The companies in 2nd and 3rd place made appeals which were ruled out on April 19th 2016. So, the contractor will start working in May 2016.
This aqueduct will bring water from two already existing wells in Bajos de Ario all the way to Mal País. It will cover Bello Horizonte, Manzanillo, Hermosa, the lower parts of Santiago, Santa Teresa, Carmen and Mal País. It will have a big storage tank in Cerro Villalta. Regarding altitude, due to water pressure, the aqueduct will reach up to 60m.
4) Which way will it be ran between Manzanillo and Hermosa, up or down?
It will pass through the beach side, not up the hill. The environmental impact studies about this have been made and it already has SETENA’s permission. It will not give water to the higher part of Santiago.
There is a complementary project aiming to build a water storage tank in Santiago. This tank is intended to store water to cover peak use times in Santa Teresa. The AyA is analyzing the possibility of building a pumping station from this tank to feed Santiago. This is something we are currently working on.
There is a communitarian water committee composed by organizations (Asociación Pro Bienestar, Cámara de Turismo, and Waterkeepers) and community leaders (doña Vicky Vargas) that has been working for the past 3-4 years interacting with the AyA to follow up on things, putting pressure, supporting, and making things happen.
If you want more details about the aqueduct, there is an informative meeting on May 11th, 5pm at Santa Teresa’s Salón Comunal.
5) When & how will this affect the town & its residents?
The contractor will be working in town laying down the pipes. People need to be patient and understand that it will soon be ready. If everything goes smoothly, the aqueduct is bound to be operational by August 2017.
6) How can residents get involved?
Once the aqueduct will be ready, the most important thing is to USE WATER WISELY. Projections estimate that the aqueduct will last between 30-50 years. How much it lasts is basically up to us and the way we use water. So we better be smart about how much water we consume. We will organize workshops raising the community’s awareness on this and educating people on water conservation techniques.
Residents can also get involved by protecting nature! This place has rapidly developed over the last twenty years due to an expanding eco-tourism industry. If this development is allowed to continue without addressing water use and wastewater management issues, it is very likely that these towns will quickly lose their environmental attractiveness and the tourism income that comes from that. Local businesses and the community in general need to be aware of the fact that by polluting, they are currently destroying their very own source of income.
7) How can others help Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers?
People can help by donating to our cause at: www.nicoyawaterkeeper.org
You can also help protect our environment by participating in the activities we organize: beach clean-ups, recycling campaigns, free workshops, festivals, etc. We need more people interested in protecting our natural resources!