Water solutions for Guanacaste move at slow pace

Written by Mariano

By Marisol Arias M.

• Province representatives complain about slow progress of government promises

• Government claims they are working on solutions such as water measurement in aquifers

• Funds for Playas del Coco-Ocotal and Nimboyores aqueducts have not been confirmed, CATURGUA says

• According to IMN, this year’s El Niño phenomenon is the worst in decades

In spite of the fact that last month rainfall returned to a large part of Guanacaste province, it is true that, according to the National Meteorological Service (Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, IMN) forecast, there is a rainfall deficit of a 75 percent. In light of this situation, the dry season is not looking good to many in the area.

This climate reality in Guanacaste, which is the most affected province of the country, has not only threatened the economic growth and development of an area that is barely recovering from the 2008 economic crisis, but is jeopardizing the supply of this vital resource for personal use in the communities.

This fact is well known to the government authorities, who posed solutions months ago. In order to deal with the emergency, they proposed the development of the necessary infrastructure that would ultimately provide water in the short and long terms. This past July 25, in Nicoya, President of the Republic, Luis Guillermo Solís, made a series of propositions to the Guanacastecos.

Among the most important, in relation to the water issue, he signed a decree stating the Global Water Supply Plan for Guanacaste (Programa Integral de Abastecimiento de Agua para Guanacaste PIAAG) was of the utmost importance to the public. Government claims they are working on solutions Many national authorities point out that solutions do not come easily and that actions are being taken to ease a crisis that has remained unattended for decades.

“In the government, we are giving priority to reducing the drought that Guanacaste and Central Pacific are tackling. In October 2014, an emergency decree was issued for 11 cantons of the province. We are working to help the communities to face this crisis, with about $25 million budget from the Emergency Commission and about $6 million from other institutions,” said Yamileth Astorga, Executive President of the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados A y A).

In addition, A y A said that eight tank trucks are currently being used to provide water to the communities and they are acquiring additional container vehicles to reach 13 more areas.

“Fifty million dollars has been assigned to the imperative attention of the Chorotega Region. With the help of these resources, we are building and improving aqueducts, water wells and other facilities in Liberia, Nicoya, Cañas, Cóbano, Abangares, Bagaces and Tamarindo, among other communities,” Astorga added.

Meanwhile, the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) announced that they will invest $ 4 million in the PIAAG, which foresees the implementation of 12 projects in the immediate, short, medium and long term to ensure water and food (irrigation) security and sustainable use (with priority groundwater).

Additionally, the MINAE has discussed their responsibility in making feasibility and design studies in order to plan the greatest and most strategic project: the Water Supply System of the Middle Basin of the Tempisque River and Coastal Communities. It has also guaranteed about $2 million out of its 2016 budget, which come from water fees.

Therefore, the resources invested by water users return to the communities as solutions. Among all the projects, the critical ones are the improvements in the Nicoya (stages 1 and 2), Papagayo Sur and Nimboyores Aqueducts and the monitoring of underground water systems, among others.

This latter project, the Real-Time Groundwater Monitoring System (Sistema de Monitoreo de Agua Subterránea en Tiempo Real SIMASTIR) began in October. Its purpose is to set up an automatic national network of monitored underground water in order to benefit from the proper management of the hydro resources.

Once the project is operational, information will be generated to help in the decision making process related to underground water management. Scientific data will allow the evaluation of water behavior and its relation to the communities and their socio-economic activities in a sustainable manner.

With an investment of ȼ908,000,000, amonitoring network must be designed for every aquifer. A y A, the MINAE and the National Irrigation and Drainage Service (Servicio Nacional de Riego y Avenamiento SENARA) have determined that Nimboyores, Huacas,Tamarindo, Potrero, Brasilito, Playas del Coco, Panamá, Sardinal – Tempisque (right bank), Caimital Nicoya and Cóbano are the critical aquifers in which the equipment must be installed. In these aquifers, 56 possible wells and monitored pressure gauges have been identified.

Slow progress and lack of concrete measures

Despite these measures, the representatives of Guanacaste, including Johnny Leiva of the Social Christian Unity Party and John Marín of the National Liberation Party, have declared their dissatisfaction with the progress of the dialogue and realization of the commitments made by the government last July, especially issues such as water supply. Representatives have agreed that there are organizational problems among government leaders that run the institutions that are involved within the Solís-Rivera administration.

The dialogue is between institutional authorities, mayors, representatives and social organizations, who will meet at the beginning of November to track the negotiations and the status of the agreements.

Unclear outlook for promises

The Guanacaste Chamber of Tourism (Cámara de Turismo de Guanacaste CATURGUA) maintains that the resources for Playas del Coco-Ocotal aquifer have not been guaranteed, which would require an approximate investment of $1.5 million. Nor has the $3.5 million allotted for Nimboyores been confirmed. On this point, Priscilla Solano of CATURGUA claimed that the government has not set a schedule for the Río Piedras reservoir project, which needs to be organized urgently.

Governmental decisions and political disagreements continue while climate change remains to affect the region hard.

El Niño Phenomenon of 2015 is the worst in decades for Costa Rica

Since 1937, there has been no record in Liberia for a drought as severe as the one this year, according to a recent report by Luis Fernando Alvarado, researcher from the National Meteorological Service (Instituto Meteorológico Nacional, IMN).

In the current century, El Niño has altered the climate of the country on six occasions, the last one, in 2012. Now, it is has been affecting Costa Rica since 2014, and it is changing the rainfall patterns as never before. El Niño originates from an unusual warming in the waters of Pacific Ocean, especially on the Equator. This phenomenon causes changes in global temperature, droughts and floods. In Costa Rica, its impact alters the rainy season, the temperatures and wind. Ninety percent of the droughts are registered in the Northern Pacific area, and the great floods take place on the Caribbean Slope.

The province of Guanacaste, located in the northwest, has registered the highest deficit in rainfall in almost 80 years. Normally, the average rainfall in July is 164 mm; however, in July 2015, less than 2 mm were registered, thus becoming the driest July in the last 75 years.

The same situation is taking place where rainfall has not returned to normal: Carrillo, Bagaces and Santa Cruz, spots where important rivers have dried up significantly.

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