257-4 Water and Wastewater Management in Rural Costa Rica

Tuesday, 7 October 2008: 2:15 PM
George R. Brown Convention Center, 310BE
Adam G. Clapp, Environmental Science, Baylor University, Valley Mills, TX, Joe C. Yelderman Jr, Geology, Baylor University, Waco, TX and Brian Scheffe, Boulder, CO
Most areas in Costa Rica receive abundant rainfall. However, suitable water sources are often scarce due to inadequate infrastructure. Increasing development and growing population will mean more sources of contamination as well as a greater demand for potable water. Proper wastewater management is needed to protect surface water and ground water quality even in this humid climate. A case study at a Costa Rican ecolodge, Hacienda Barú, details the water supply source, water delivery system and wastewater treatment in a Central American rural setting.

Water in Costa Rica is managed nationally by Acueductos y Alcantarillados (AyA) which provides coverage to the majority of the population. In recent years, AyA began sponsoring local cooperatives (ASADAs) to help provide water for rural areas. Hacienda Barú Ecolodge is a member of an ASADA that also provides water for a gas station and 34 local residents. An upland spring serves as the ASADA's primary source, while a nearby well located on the coastal plain serves Hacienda Barú in times of low spring flow. Wastewater is treated on-site from cabins, a restaurant and laundry. Although the area receives abundant annual rainfall there are distinct wet and dry seasons that each present problems. Water shortages during the dry season are due to a lack of storage and limited spring discharge that is unable to match peak daily usage rates. During the wet season, spring flow is more than enough to match demand, but effectiveness of wastewater treatment by soil leachfields is limited due to high seasonal water tables that sometimes reach the surface.

Cooperative efforts between Baylor University and Hacienda Barú have improved water supply infrastructure and guided decisions to select alternative wastewater treatment systems for this rural Central American setting.