Edited by Edward A. Page and Michael R. Redclift
Chapter 12: Fresh Water in Costa Rica: Abundant Yet Constrained
Álvaro Fernández-González and Edgar E. Gutiérrez-Espeleta* 1 INTRODUCTION Life-support systems for humans and other species are critically dependent on water quality and availability. Among the greatest current challenges to human security are the risks to public and environmental health stemming from the degradation or depletion of water resources. And there are other impacts of water conditions on human security, both in the economic and social realms. The increased cost of making water available and potable (when possible at all) must be borne by public or private agencies and, therefore, to some degree, by the public itself. This has national implications in terms of decreased overall competitiveness, as well as more individual or localised outcomes, such as a loss of real estate value or eventual displacement of populations. Most troubling perhaps is the fact that conﬂicts between users of the resource, and between different uses of it, can produce escalating costs and disturbances, even with regional and international consequences. Water resources in Costa Rica, and drinking water in particular, are abundant. Yet they are constrained: there are symptoms that pollution and overexploitation might pose serious dangers for the future, bringing about tensions and contradictions between its uses as a source and sink. Water stress from aquifer overexploitation has become a distinct possibility, as extraction expanded by 400 per cent in the metropolitan area in the 1996– 2000 period. In addition, these aquifers show the increasing presence of carcinogenic nitrates, which could have taken 20 years to leach...
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