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Rural developments in Costa Rica should form aqueduct to secure water supply

by Ivo Henfling

Costa Rica is trying to secure the water supply for the next generations, a commendable task and a great initiative. Unfortunately, this has everyone running around trying to find out what is going on and what to do.
The unofficial association of Hacienda Atenas, a beautiful community in the Atenas hills, organized a meeting for their members, inviting attorneys Henry Viquez and Mr. Manuel Arrieta as head of AyA (Instituto Costarricense de Acueductos y Alcantarillados or Water Company), Department of Rural Aqueducts. The Atenas head of the AyA, Mr César Augusto Ortiz was also invited to the meeting, but he didn’t show. I applaud the members present on trying to find a way to formalize an asada on such short notice, necessary to protect their water supply.

In the past, we have published a blog about the need for a water certification to receive building permits from the engineering department in the municipality and guest blogger Pablo R. wrote about the Costa Rica water saga that explain the problem.

The property owners of Hacienda Atenas are lucky, they have sufficient water for the community and it is quality water. The Atenas AyA needs to bring water from Tacares de Grecia, which is creating problems with their neighbors, who don’t want to supply water to Atenas.
Law #17914, concerning “Ley de Asociaciones Administradoras de Acueductos y Alcantarillados, ASADAS”, was created to stop real estate developers from developing subdivisions without water systems that are not up to necessary standards. Many developers have delivered faulty wells that either dry up very fast or have bad water quality.

The Atenas AyA office

With the approval of law #218, Ley de Asociaciones Administradoras de Acueductos Comunales, Hacienda Atenas, as well as any other communities in Costa Rica with a privately run water well, has two choices:
1. Try to have the local AyA accept the well and take it over. The head of the AyA office in Atenas, has unofficially announced that AyA will not accept donation of the Hacienda Atenas water well
2. Create formally an “association of neighbors” or “asada” that can manage, in the name of AyA, the existing water well.
The price per m3 water to the consumer that can be charged is controlled by Aresep (Autoridad Reguladora de los Servicios Públicos), this can be seen here. This creates a problem for most asadas because they are too small and have elevated costs of operation, explains Mr. Arrieta. It might be possible, due to the size of the community as well as the fact that the water infrastructure is well constructed and maintained, that Hacienda Atenas will not have any problems being able to charge the m3 price acceptable by Aresep standards.
Hacienda Atenas’ attorney, Lic. Henry Viquez, had requested a revision of the existing water well by AyA in April. This request has no value anymore with the new regulations.
To be able to constitute the association or asada, 6 Hacienda Atenas property owners are needed. This association will have 6 legal books and will need to learn how to manage their finances correctly.

The Hacienda Atenas water well is located on private land and the owner of that property will have to donate the part that holds the well, since the Atenas zoning plan does not allow for segregation of that part and have its own legal title. Those present at the meeting seemed to agree that this should not constitute any problems.
The AyA water board has formally agreed that asadas cannot be located within 2 kilometers of each other. Nonetheless, this is a AyA board agreement and not a law, so a change in this regulation could be accepted by the same board, says Mr. Arrieta. He recommends to formally constitute the asada and to follow the necessary procedures as shown below.

Those present at the meeting voted 100% in favor of the following:

  1. To inform all Hacienda lot owners of the issue at hand and ask them to support the creation of an asada or show their disagreement. It has to be understood that Atenas has problems with the water supply and if the Atenas AyA accepts the responsibility of the Hacienda Atenas water well, this water will be distributed to neighbors who are not part of the Hacienda Atenas community.
  2. To meet again with as many property owners present as possible, on the 22nd of November and 2:00 pm, of which all owners will be notified, to try to form a formal association.
  3. To request formally from the AyA water board in Atenas to accept or reject the Hacienda Atenas water well, which can be used to request the acceptance of the asada of the water board of rural aqueducts.

Procedure to be followed:

  1. In an assembly of Hacienda Atenas property owners, formally constitute an association. This will be done by Lic. Henry Viquez
  2. Lic. Henry Viquez will present the “escritura publica” of the constitution of the association to the National Register. It will take more or less 1 month to receive registration
  3. Present this documentation to the AyA legal department. Mr. Arietta offered to guide Mr. Viquez in this matter, so all legal documents will be complete.
  4. As soon as the SAyA legal department approves the legal documents, they will pass them on to the Department of Rural Aqueducts
  5. Once approved by this department, a formal agreement between AyA and the Hacienda Atenas asada will be signed
    The matter of being able or not to apply for building permits in Atenas was not discussed with Mr. Arietta, because his department doesn’t have anything to do with this. The Atenas AyA representative, who could have answered our questions on this issue, didn’t show. Several builders, as well as Attorney Viquez said to just follow the normal requirements from the municipality’s engineering department and assured me that building permits will be approved if all the steps in those requirements are taken.

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