“Without water, there can be no life. Without clean water, there can be no healthy life.”
This is the driving force behind the worldwide environmental organization Waterkeeper Alliance. 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 and the equitable use of water resources globally.
Water is at the center of the world’s most pressing issues today: security, scarcity, energy, climate change, and infectious diseases. Fresh water resources are declining in virtually every part of the world in quality and quantity. It is reported that more than 1 billion people on the planet live without access to safe drinking water.
More than 200 Waterkeeper grassroots organizations on six continents strive to defend clean water in their communities. In Central America, Costa Rica is the only nation with a Waterkeeper organization.
The environmentally-friendly town of Santa Teresa, Costa Rica, on the southern Nicoya Peninsula, is the lucky home of Costa Rica’s Waterkeeper Alliance. 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 waste 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 Waterkeeper group. “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.
Waterkeeper 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.
The Santa Teresa Waterkeeper group is targeting two community campaigns: “One River at a Time” to clean each of the area’s 18 rivers, and helping people properly treat their waste waters with practical and affordable solutions 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.
On Santa Teresa Beach, Pranamar Oceanfront Villas & Yoga Retreat is creating a bio-garden for their restaurant kitchen’s 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. “We save water all year long this way,” noted Matarrita.
The Balinese-style oceanfront villas closely follow sustainable tourism practices. Two fresh water wells on the property reinforce the boutique hotel’s water supply. Water is filtered and purified in the restaurant and made available for guests. “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