Wastewater Treatment in Costa Rica
By 2018, 70% of wastewater in Costa Rica was not treated. Septic tanks are a great solution for households but not all of them have this system and not the best option for urban zones or coastal areas because the houses are being built in less space and there´s no appropriate treatment for the tanks.
Even if drinking water gets to the 91% of the population, 13.4% of residual water doesn’t get treated at all and negatively impacts the environment.
The current sewer systems are obsolete and building a new infrastructure is very hard and expensive because plumbing (public and private) will need replacement.
The budget that the government is releasing for this purpose is not enough for the AyA to be able to finance it by itself. It is even calculated that the sanitation system is 4 times more expensive than paying for the new infrastructure. The main reason why the project of sanitation is not moving forward is that in the drinking water rates, there’s only 30% of profit and that’s not enough to do the modifications needed.
The process should start with a pre-treatment before the primary, secondary and advanced treatment for the water to be absolutely clean and ready to reuse.
The country has some wastewater treatment plants, mostly in San Jose. But still there are worries related to the dangers of the damages that might be done by those wastewaters, for example, if they reach the agricultural products it would be a huge public health issue due to the fact that the dirty water is reaching rivers and beaches.
Companies have higher standards to meet in water treatment regards. However, screening and sedimentation are not enough to stop soaps, fecal matter, detergents, greases, oils, heavy metals and more to get to rivers and oceans. The ecosystems are also affected with the wastes.
If Costa Rica wants to keep tourism as one of its main economic activities, the wastewater treatment needs to improve as soon as possible because the current practices are not sustainable.
This country has a lot of potential to fix this situation of the poor wastewater treatment it has. The challenges are big but the focus should be to demand the water to be processed as it is meant to be, the reforestation of ecosystems that desperately need to be recovered from contamination, provide sensibilization strategies and sustainable technologies, economic incentives for companies with low contamination, better practices between the government´s entities that work together in regards of water and environment and to avoid the contamination of such a beautiful place as Costa Rica is.