In the last year, the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA) has determined that at least 30 ASADAs (rural water boards) from Nicoya don’t meet the minimum technical operation requirements.
Illegal wells, lack of aqueducts and supply problems are part of the deficit conditions that the institution found in these associations, according to the feasibility list sent to The Voice of Guanacaste.
The ASADAs are in charge of managing community aqueduct and sewer systems. After finding irregularities in some of them, AyA determined that none of the ones on the list can grant letters of water availability (permits) for new constructions in the canton. As a result, developers who are waiting for permits to start new real estate projects will have to wait even longer.
ASADAs like the ones for Garza and La Esperanza South in Nosara and Curime and Rio Grande in Nicoya are among the ones affected by the measure.
To receive approval from AyA, the ASADAs must present technical studies that prove that they have the necessary capacity to provide water resources to current users and future constructions. The process can take months, according to the Water League, the entity that represents the ASADAs in the area.
Since last year, the institution began to inspect the associations in the Chorotega region to determine if they meet the requirements of the new ASADA regulations, published in September 2020.
The regulation establishes that the ASADAs must register all the water flows that they are responsible for, do laboratory analysis of the water and present studies that demonstrate that they have the necessary water capacity for the number of assigned users.
In addition, it requires the organizations to maintain a monthly flow measurement program that they have to submit annually to AyA’s Community Systems Management sub-management.
According to the same document, AyA made these modifications together with the Ministry of Environment and Energy (MINAE) to “regulate the operation of recognized ASADAs” and guarantee that all users receive the aqueduct and sewer service correctly.
64 ASADAs Affected Throughout Guanacaste
The Voice of Guanacaste has a copy of the list of suspended ASADAs in the Chorotega region. In total, 64 associations in the province have irregularities, and half of them are in the canton of Nicoya. The Water League’s records show that there are at least 70 ASADAs in operation in Nicoya.
According to the list, these ASADAs don’t have enough water capacity for the entire population, they don’t have all their water flows registered, they need other water storage devices, they have illegal wells or water quality problems. Some have more than one irregularity.
Emel Rodriguez, president of the Water League (which represents the ASADAs of Nicoya, Santa Cruz and Hojancha), affirmed that the new regulation “was a necessity to control proper water usage once and for all.” In this way, the ASADAs won’t be able to give permits without having control of the amount of resources they actually have.
Although AyA published the document in the Gazette last year in September, the regulation specifies that it wouldn’t go into effect until six months after that date, in March 2021. However, the entities could start applying suspensions prior to that period.
In fact, AyA revoked some ASADAs’ permits before the new regulation was published since they presented irregularities covered in the previous statute. The oldest one is the La Esperanza Sur ASADA in March 2020, which doesn’t have an aqueduct system and the water has to be brought through a cistern.
However, he said that it’s a mistake for AyA to withdraw technical permits immediately after inspections when they locate the problem. He thinks it limits the source of income that the ASADA would receive to modify the errors detected.
They don’t give them a warning. They just take it away without thinking about anything,” said Rodriguez.
One of the ones affected is the Playas de Nosara ASADA. The list indicates that to receive permits again, the association has to put all the existing wells in its name and prove that they increased the amount of water they have to offer. The ASADA figures that the process will take more than a month to resolve.
The Water League representative also denounced that AyA isn’t informing them about the irregularities of each ASADA either, so the organization can’t even help the associations immediately.
We’re willing to help, but unless each ASADA approaches the institution, it’s impossible to become aware of each revocation of permits. That complicates it even more,” he stated.
The Voice of Guanacaste consulted AyA about the regulations and the processes that they follow at the time of suspending the ASADA permits. However, by the time this article was published, there was no response from the authorities.
Holding Up Construction in the Canton
Josue Ruiz, coordinator of the Municipality of Nicoya’s Department of Construction Control, indicated that revoking permits to give water availability letters is currently one of the main challenges for construction development in the canton. Ruiz talked about the issue during a Voice of Guanacaste discussion on construction development in Nosara.
The coordinator affirmed that real estate projects that are advancing are the ones that were processed before the new regulation was published. New developments are at a standstill, so the Municipality is also losing this kind of income.
That slows us down, because that means that projects that are just going to apply for technical water permits are most likely going to be rejected. AyA has [the ASADAs] in check and so that affects us too,” emphasized Ruiz.
Rodriguez criticized that the regulation should improve the relationship between the institution and the ASADAs, but “it ends up harming the population.”
“They are affecting municipal development, housing bonuses, new businesses, because the ASADAs have to find where to go to buy the new equipment and to get studies and until then, there will be no construction. This is unbelievable,” the representative affirmed.