The Editorial Board at the Voice of Nosara decided to publish this water issue when we began to see that there were a number of rumors, few of them accurate, circulating around Nosara and Guiones about water, water rates and the ASADA. However they originate, a spread of rumors is fueled by speculation in the absence of information and it reflects a dysfunction in the workings of this community for which this paper takes some responsibility. We like to think that we do our part helping this community stay in touch with the facts about what’s going on locally. These rumors were a clear sign that we needed to step up and do our job – a little extra. Hence: the Voice of Nosara Special Edition on Water.
The American Projects and its ASADA is at a critical point in its history of managing water for the Playa Guiones community. Historically the ASADA has been run at times in a cavalier fashion. Since 2006, with the election of a new president and mostly new board, great strides have been made in increasing transparency, and in long term thinking in support of sustainable well-planned development. The ASADA has also prioritized fair service, requesting conservation and even temporarily turning off supply until water could be available to everyone equally. Unlike it’s neighboring ASADA in Nosara Centro, the Playa Guiones ASADA pumps its water over a significant distance and contends with a December through March spike of almost triple demand. This requires infrastructure: new wells, pipes and pumps to get the water to the community and in the amounts that the relatively large homes (and swimming pools) of Playa Guiones demand. Finally, in another step towards increased fairness, the ASADA has levied an “impact fee” that takes into account how much water a property will demand (and thus how much more infrastructure will be needed), and charges proportionally for it. This helps ensure that homeowners don’t unfairly shoulder the burden of extra costs that hotels and other developments create through their much greater water requirements.
Currently, our community is witness to rising tensions around water usage and the ASADA. A moratorium on distributing water meters has been issued due to water demand exceeding delivery capacity. Moreover, a preliminary ruling has determined that the Guiones ASADA’s rate was higher than law allows. Unfortunately, it was precisely that higher rate that helped to pay for not only the infrastructure that Guiones needs to get water and grow responsibly but also for the ground water studies to help us all plan for the future. Rick Walker, the Guiones ASADA’s colorful president, has issued a call for voluntary payment of the difference between the new ARESEP-mandated price of March 2009 and the old price, which covers the cost of our infrastructure. In a heartening sign for property owners here, the Asada has seen over an 80% compliance with this voluntary additional fee. And in fact this number may be higher soon, as a number of homeowners are pausing to educate themselves about the current situation before paying the additional fee. Clearly this is an indication of how sustainably minded this community has grown. For many reasons, this voluntary payment is at best a temporary solution.
Critics of the ASADA have many complaints (see page 13), some of them legitimate. For example, a mandatory higher fee creates an insurmountable barrier for many Tico homeowners living in the Guiones projectos. This community does not want to inadvertently create a kind of economic segregation, and this issue must be faced and a solution found that is free of loopholes for the unscrupulous that would exploit it to avoid paying their fair share. And while the ASADA has more improving to do in moving towards increased transparency in their governance of this public resource, it has made a significant change from old practices, by sending weekly email updates to the community. The ASADA’s next step should be figuring out a sensible way to reach members of the community that don’t own computers so that transparency doesn’t extend only to the wealthy.
UNFETTERED DEVELOPMENT vs. SUSTAINABLE DEVELOPMENT
Unfortunately, many of the complaints we’ve heard seem to reflect developers’ (and development dependent businesses’) disappointment in the ASADA’s role as their only barrier to otherwise unfettered (and unsustainable) development. This ASADA is the first in this community that was not overwhelmingly occupied by those in an unseemly conflict of interest with their revenue generated as developers. This community is fortunate that our ASADA is obeying Costa Rica’s environmental law that states that any new building after 2007 requires a letter certifying that the new building has enough available water. The Guiones ASADA has held its ground when this was not the case and their adherence to this law has not earned it friends among members of the development community that prize profit over a sustainable future for those of us living here. In a particularly egregious move, the municipality of Nicoya ignored the law and began issuing permits for building in Guiones without the required letter of certification. We trust that if it ever resumes, that the Guiones ASADA considers filing a denuncia. Costa Rica’s environment is under threat enough without our guardians of public interest ignoring laws designed to protect the country and its residents.
Let us be clear, development is inevitable. This newspaper is not anti-development. It is pro-sustainable development meaning development that is governed by thoughtful planning for the community our environment and the future in addition to a profit motive. From all appearances so far, this is the ASADA’s position as well. We urge the ASADA to immediately take steps necessary to work with AyA to expedite its fee approval process (and the necessary studies) and we urge AyA to fulfill its mandated role to help expedite this process in recognition of the fact that Costa Rica’s nationally mandated water fees do not take into account water demand in communities such as Playa Guiones.
So, within these pages you will find a piece giving background on Guiones’ ASADA, a Q & A with the VoN and Silvia Gamboa of the law firm Facio y Canas about aspects of the law pertaining to water availability and ASADA; a piece on the current situation in Tamarindo where AyA has taken over water responsibility from the local private ASADA; the results of the Aquifer study by ING and two guest editorials, and, a few infographics to illustrate important issues and concepts around water. We hope you find it helpful.
Editors Voice of Nosara