The developer of the Lomas del Sol and Jardines del Sol condominiums, Antonio Marvez, requested that the Municipality of Santa Cruz “take over the water supply” in Marbella, where their developments are located.
However, the local government can’t do so, according to the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA). In addition, the municipality wouldn’t agree to process the request to respect AyA’s intervention, after questions arose about the providing service in the community.
In 2018, AyA took over the aqueducts managed by the Marbella and Posada del Sol ASADAs (rural water boards), as well as the illegal well that supplies Marvez’s condominiums, after detecting irregularities in the water management. Currently, the institution is advancing with drilling more than 60 out of 100 meters for the new well to provide water to at least 1,000 people in the community.
“This intervention is subject to AyA’s guidelines, so we can only provide backing until they decide how the water will be supplied,” said municipal council member Ledis Peña during the June 15 session, when they learned about Marvez’s request (watch starting at 48:31. In Spanish).
The council agreed to ask AyA for a report on progress in looking for a solution for Marbella and forwarded the request to the water resources commission to follow up on the issue. The Voice wanted to find out the Santa Cruz mayor’s office’s position, but we hadn’t gotten a response to the questions sent to the press manager by the time of this article’s publication.
Marvez thinks that AyA has been slow and doesn’t have the resources— water and infrastructure— to provide a prompt solution to the communities’ water supply issues. “This is about a request and complaint to the Municipality of Santa Cruz that the Marbella community in general has been making,” he said.
“The municipality has the responsibility to find a solution, either by creating a water department or investing in infrastructure…. [AyA and the Municipality] will have to reach an agreement, or the municipality will have to see how they solve it,” he added, pointing out the example of the mayors of Limon’s struggle to create their own water management company.
Asked by The Voice, AyA referred to the request and said that the Municipality of Santa Cruz isn’t an aqueduct and sewer systems operator in the canton, including the Marbella area.
According to the AyA Formative Law, No. 2726, the municipalities have residual competency. In other words, they would only operate in those population supply systems where AyA doesn’t operate,” a representative of AyA responded via email.
AyA added, “AyA took over the operation of the systems that the ASADAs in the Marbella area previously operated and intervened with supplying the Posada del Sol and Jardines del Sol Condominiums in order to regulate the service through a legal operator, in accordance with the current law.”
Even in cases in which municipalities operate the supply service, the works need to be approved by AyA. This is shown by a legal opinion from 2015 from the Costa Rican Attorney General’s Office (PGR-Procuraduría General de la República).
Progress on New Hope
As of June 23, AyA had already drilled 61 meters, advancing toward their goal of 100 meters. Once they reach that depth, they’ll determine if the well has the quantity and quality of water required to supply the community, and if possible, even to extend it to the neighboring communities of Manzanillo and Veracruz.
Getting to this point took more than two years.
The institution learned that the Marbella ASADA granted water capacity and drinking water certificates to Marvez without complying with the provisions of the law, “resulting in the developer building an aqueduct, based on said document, [with permits issued by the Municipality of Santa Cruz] and providing a drinking water service illegally ”.
The ASADA made a commitment to the developer to “carry out procedures corresponding to the interested party, such as the registration of sources and others described in the resulting sixth, an agreement that was never presented to AyA for analysis and approval.”
As part of the intervention in 2018, AyA closed the ASADA of Marbella’s well and currently provides water service to the community with the services of the Posada del Sol ASADA.
Marvez’s condominiums— 31 properties in all— continue to be supplied by the well and the system that he built, the source of which is in Lomas del Sol. It will continue this way until AyA can find a new source.
AyA began drilling the new well this year in May, after carrying out hydrogeological studies to determine which points were the most suitable. One of them was located on a property owned by Jeffrey Allen, a developer and former board member of the ASADA of Marbella, investigated for irregularities.
On February 23 of this year, Allen gave permission for them to enter and drill on his property, according to a report from AyA sent to The Voice (In Spanish). They spent more than a month relocating and verifying the point to be drilled.
During a meeting with the community, AyA’s director of production and distribution for the Chorotega Region, Alejandro Contreras, and the official from AyA’s legal department, Andrea Chacon, affirmed that negotiating and obtaining the owner’s permission were procedures that took time.
If the land were municipal, we would have entered a while ago, but with the registered owners, it was quite difficult,” said Chacon.
If the well yields positive results, AyA will manage its donation by the owner or its purchase. “The land [transfer] won’t be managed until water availability is verified, both quality and quantity,” indicated the AyA peripherals sub-management through its press department.
In the April meeting with the community, Contreras affirmed the need for the Municipality of Santa Cruz to get involved in the process, mainly to organize development. “Marbella is in the eye of the hurricane and this is going to come at any moment, when the road is paved, but we have the opportunity to organize things starting now so what has happened in other places doesn’t happen to us. This isn’t about hindering development, but rather, it’s about organizing it,” said Contreras.