In 2014, many regions of Costa Rica experienced months of water rationing. This year has been worse. But what’s going on – don’t we live in the tropics, isn’t water abundant in rainforest regions?

Blaming the Weather Doesn’t Address the Real Problem

According to the Public National Meteorological Institute (IMN), the last couple rainy seasons were not near as strong as normally seen. Usually, the country’s reservoirs can handle (however just barely) dry periods with rainfall accumulated during the rainy season. El Niño seems to be the culprit, says the IMN.

Heredia for example is in its third consecutive year where water shortages have been severe due to lack of rainfall. Heredia like most regions of Costa Rica receives most of its water from the mountains, and this year’s high-pressure from the Caribbean side has prevented the formation of fronts which create the needed rains in the Central valley, according to the IMN.

It’s not just the Central Valley. In many areas Costa Rican residents have taken to Facebook to reveal and complain about unscheduled shutoffs. Residents from many Pacific towns like Tamarindo and Nosara, have experienced severe water shortages. Towns and cities in Alajuela West have seen regularly rationing for the first time in the 2015 dry season as shortages have become more critical. Many of these areas are agricultural and it has become common to hear farmers complaining about their struggling or even failing crops.

Costa Rica Water Supply System Currently Runs near Capacity

With approximately 99% of the urban population connected to public water supply and rural coverage about 95% connected, in most of the regions of the country water production capacity is close to current demand (Wiki). So risk of water deficits in the future will continue to be high.

Increasing demand on the water system has been exacerbated by tourism and real estate development in many areas of the country. For example around Manuel Antonio National Park, where the existing water supply systems been unable to cope with the demand increase, as hotels and real estate developments continue to out-pace current supply.

With the water situation getting more urgent throughout Central America, the Costa Rican government needs to address this countries water supply and distribution system problems. Solution will have to be at the local, provincial, and of course at the commercial levels through enforcement of rainwater capture and renewable/green policy enforcement, and incentive.