Steve Doyle of the small town of Volio struck a chord with readers when he outlined his problems in getting water for his small subdivision. Dozens wrote letters. Some were short. Others offered the detailed possible solutions Doyle sought.
“My heart goes out to you and I empathize with your problems,” said Mary Jay of Alajuela. “I have lived in Costa Rica for 15 years and sold everything we had to move here to fulfill a dream of retiring to a simple life. It seems to me that the power-hungry bureaucrats (and crooks) in this country try to frustrate a simple life more and more.
“Your situation has everything to do with Pura Vida and Latin (Costa Rican) versus Gringo way of doing things,” said Phil Baker, who noted he had authored a book on the country. “If you do not have a business plan or strategy that prepares for incompetence and painfully slow processes, then you were inadequately prepared and perhaps mesmerized by salespeople with the ‘just don’t say anything bad about Costa Rica’ sales pitch.”
A series of solid suggestions came from Jerry Werth, who runs Pura Vida Drilling and Well Service in Alajuela: “Costa Rica does not have a water shortage!!! Costa Rica has an infrastructure and government management shortage.”
Doyle said the problem he faces was one of incompetence and lack of accountability.
Werth noted that the small local water companies, called asociaciónes operadoras de sistemas de acueductos y alcantarillado sanitario, are run by a local group of elected individuals.
“Most of these people are hard-working individuals that I’m sure are very good at their specific trade,” he said. “Most however do not have the experience nor the technical training to make critical decisions regarding drinking water.”
Doyle said he was trying to obtain water meters for a 10-acre subdivision not far from San Ramón. But since June his application has been bounced around from the local water association to the Instituto Nacional de Acueductos y Alcantarillados in San José. He said only one person in the entire country has the authority to approve the hookups, which have been thoroughly engineered.
Werth suggested that as a last resort Doyle could put in a private well for each home or put in a private water system connected to each piece of subdivided property. “Two and sometimes up to four homes can be granted a legal concession to extract water from an individual well,” he said. “Easy process, straight forward results.”
He also suggested, among other options, that Doyle could drill a water well, set up a complete system and then donate it to the local asociación operadora de sistemas de acueductos.
“Costa Rica has very prolific aquifers,” said Werth, who has drilled many wells. “There is not a water shortage. There are a lot of people that would disagree with me. Most cannot prove their cases and want to study the so called ‘problem’ relentlessly. It’s ridiculous that so many studies are required for extracting groundwater, but important regulations such as proper grouting of water wells, to prevent aquifer contamination or licensing for water well drillers does not exist in this country. Anybody can drill a well in this country. All you need is a machine. Resource management by capable people who are educated and experienced in domestic potable water systems is the solution to the problem.”
Other readers responded with the names of individuals they thought could help. One said he had had the exact problem that Doyle outlined.
Doyle responded to the e-mails that editors forwarded to him and said:
“To those who think this is a Tico/Pura Vida thing are missing a critical point. We, as Americans, have many similar challenges in our own systems back in the States. Ask us why we came here. We tend to have short memories. The challenges may be different, but really not so much. Note the super high poll numbers when we are asked about our confidence in our own good ole U.S. government being able to function for us.
“Part of the answer, including my particular issue, is that to change things, you have got to care enough to get involved. It won’t change if we go along to get along and don’t hold ourselves and the process accountable.”
He said that the newspaper could publish his e-mail address for direct contact:firstname.lastname@example.org