“Without water, there can be no life. Without clean water, there can be no healthy life.”
This is the maxim of the worldwide environmental organizaation Waterkeeper. Based in the United States, the Waterkeeper Alliance aspires to protect every major watershed around the world, to advocate for every person’s right to clean water, as well as the wise and equitable use of water resources globally.
Presently, there are more than 200 Waterkeeper grassroots organizations on six continents pushing for clean water in their communities. Costa Rica is the only Central American nation with a Waterkeeper organization.
The progressive, environmentally-friendly town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, on the southern Nicoya Peninsula, is the lucky home of Costa Rica’s Waterkeepers. Founded in October 2012, the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper group is focused on improving the quality of water in the Santa Teresa area, and helping the community properly deal with its residual waters.
“One of our primary priorities is the lack of water and quality of water in Santa Teresa,” said Carolina Chavarria, in charge of the Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeepers. “Another priority is how residual waters are treated in Santa Teresa – from private residences to hotels and restaurants.”
Like many coastal communities in Costa Rica, especially ones that have developed rapidly from tourism, Santa Teresa faces water shortages during the Costa Rican “summer” months of January to May. Residents and businesses in the area are forced to buy tanker-trucks of water almost weekly to meet their needs until the rains begin again.
Waterkeepers is part of the local community’s Committee for Water and Health of Santa Teresa that is working with the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA) to solve the area’s water issues. A new water system for the community is planned to be ready by the end of 2015 or early 2016. “The community has been waiting 10 years for this project,” commented Chavarria.
Waterkeepers’ campaign “One River at a Time” aims to clean each of the area’s 18 rivers that flow in the Santa Teresa area, between the beaches of Manzanillo and Mal Pais. Chavarria said that they will clean one river at a time of trash and contamination, reforest and protect the watersheds, and educate the people living near the rivers to preserve them.
Another Santa Teresa Waterkeeper project is educating local people on how to properly treat their black and gray waters, with solutions that are practical and affordable, such as bio-gardens. Waste water is treated to be used safely in landscape irrigation. “Besides being pretty, they are really practical and useful,” Chavarria said.
Pranamar Oceanfront Villas & Yoga Retreat, on Santa Teresa Beach, is creating a bio-garden for the hotel’s kitchen gray water. “All of the water from the kitchen is going to be treated to get rid of the grease to be able to use for irrigation,” said Pranamar hotel manager, Mario Matarrita.
The Costa Rica beach resort already uses a completely independent septic system that recycles treated water to irrigate the hotel’s gardens. All waste water passes through a three-tank aerobic system using natural bacteria to clean the water, and then enters a drip irrigation system which maximizes water usage. “We save water all year long this way,” noted Matarrita.
Pranamar owners, Susan Money and Greg Mullins, consciously created the Balinese-style oceanfront villas adhering to sustainable tourism practices. Two fresh water wells on the property augment the boutique hotel’s water supply. Water is filtered and purified in the kitchen and made available for guests to drink and re-fill water bottles. “The idea is for our guests to not buy so many plastic bottles of water, but rather to re-fill their bottles in our restaurant with our purified water,” Matarrita explained.
Article by Shannon Farley