Environmental Earth Sciences

, Volume 71, Issue 1, pp 107–123 | Cite as

Water supply and sanitation of Costa Rica

  • Kathleen M. BowerEmail author
Original Article


Costa Rica is a developing country whose citizens pride themselves on care for the environment. Environmental care is only slowly spreading to include safe and reliable water supplies. Plentiful water resources are used for energy production, industry, municipal water supply, and agriculture. The amount and quality of water resources must be understood and protected for future sustainable use. Based on interviews and conversations, some Costarricense are aware of the need for protection of natural water resources through preservation of forests; other steps toward sustainable water use are not universally valued. Streams are not the preferred source of domestic water supply due to potential water contamination; mostly from untreated sewage, sediment and agricultural chemicals. Quantity and quality of ground water supplies, the current main source of domestic water, are being investigated by scientists of Costa Rica. While 99 % of the population has access to a known supply of domestic water, only 82 % of the population has consistent access to potable drinking water. The potable water supply is smaller in rural areas. Three percent of sewage in Costa Rica is treated before release to the environment. The Río Tárcoles water basin, underlying the largest urban area of Costa Rica, is probably the most polluted in Central America. More is spent for treatment of water-borne diseases than on water supply and sewage treatment. Other potential sources of water contamination are examined.


Water resource Water supply Water contamination Sewage treatment Costa Rica Sustainability 



The author would like to thank Alejandro Barahona of the Universidad Veritas for logistical help in Costa Rica. Daniela Lizano of the Universidad Veritas was extremely helpful sharing her enthusiasm and environmental knowledge. Ingrid Vargas and Elena Badilla Coto, Central American School of Geology; Elizabeth Carazo and Wilson Biete, Centro de Investigación en Contaminación Ambiental, University of Costa Rica; Miguel Karian, Earth Education International, San Ramon, Costa Rica; and Ricardo Morales, Francisco Amen and Juan Carlos Oreamuno, Dirección de Regulación, Ministerio de Salud; all graciously shared their enthusiasm, knowledge, and experience on water resource issues of Costa Rica. The author greatly appreciates the work of Justin Hackett and Dr. Barry Kronenfeld, Eastern Illinois University, in constructing the maps of Costa Rica. Thanks also to the unknown peer reviewers who gave great suggestions for improvement. The author takes responsibility for any errors of translation.


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Copyright information

© Springer-Verlag Berlin Heidelberg 2013

Authors and Affiliations

  1. 1.Department of Geology/GeographyEastern Illinois UniversityCharlestonUSA

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