What We Do



There is currently very little information regarding water quality in the streams and ocean of the Southern end of the Peninsula, starting from basic data such as length and flow rates, to more specific data regarding sources of pollution, the state of the various habitats, and the impacts of land use practices within the waterways. There are obvious environmental problems within these watersheds but not knowing exactly their extent and their impact creates a very big threat to the wellbeing of wildlife and humans. Under this panorama, it is impossible to make the correct decisions regarding the sustainable use and conservation of the resource.

To fill this gap, Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper established a Water Quality Monitoring Program which generates accurate base-line information regarding these water resources. Data is analyzed and shared with the relevant stakeholders allowing for informed decision making, for law enforcement and for the promotion of appropriate mitigation strategies.

If you’re interested on having more information regarding our Water Quality Monitoring Program, contact us!

Ícono Trabajo de Campo

Field Work

The tourism industry in the towns of Hermosa, Santa Teresa, Carmen and Mal País has had an accelerated growth from the late 1990s which unfortunately has been rather unplanned and unregulated. A Regulatory Plan designating land use and defining solid and liquid waste management, amongst other issues, was approved in 2004 for the maritime-terrestrial zone. Nevertheless, this plan does not regulate developments outside of the maritime-terrestrial zone.

Appropriate liquid and solid waste management is critical in coastal areas. Solid waste management has slightly improved over these last few years; nevertheless, liquid waste management hasn’t progressed as much. Some houses, restaurants and hotels have inappropriate (or none) water treatment systems, some are plumbing directing grey and black waters either directly into the ground, or into the waterways.

Unsustainable practices in agricultural, cattle and pig farming management are present towards the northern area surrounding the Ario watershed. The aqueduct which will soon supply water to the coastal towns will feed from the Ario aquifer.

This context calls for action! Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper promotes and carries out case-specific mitigation and restoration strategies to protect water quality of the streams flowing into the sea. Based on the information generated by our Water Quality Monitoring Program, Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper is able to identify the origins and types of pollution and design strategies with the relevant stakeholders to find sustainable solutions and advocate for changes resulting in better water quality of our coastal waters.

Our mitigation strategies will use low cost, easy-to-implement technologies including: biogardens to treat grey waters; erosion control using vetiver; bioswales to remove silt and pollution from surface runoff water; biodigestors which decompose organic matter, waste from grease traps from the food industry sector for example, to produce biogas which can be used as energy source; compost toilets which treat excreta, with no or small volumes of flush water, via composting or managed aerobic decomposition.

If you’re interested on having more information regarding our mitigation and restoration strategies, please, contact us!

Current projects

Waste Management Project

The coastal towns of Mal País, Santa Teresa, Hermosa, and Manzanillo are a beautiful highly rated touristic destination for their stunning beaches, sights, surfing, yoga, relax and fun. Pollution in our coastal towns is due, to a great extent, to inappropriate solid and liquid waste management: lack-of or inappropriate water treatment systems, draining of black and grey waters directly into the ground and/or nearby streams, rapid, uncontrolled and under-regulated urbanization which has generated pressure over the area’s natural resources, and lack of community education regarding waste management.

Some businesses have deficient water treatment systems: many of them do not have grease traps; others have grease traps but designed incorrectly; many others do have grease traps and well-designed systems but don’t know where to dispose of the waste coming out of their grease traps when they clean them as there is no facility in the area that treats this type of waste.

All this grease is ending up in the water polluting it or in the communitarian dump generating greenhouse effect gases. A big part of the population is not aware of the damage this is causing, to the environment, to our health and to the communities’ income generation capacities of these tourism-dependent towns. Lack of education and awareness of how human activities are harming the environment and causing climate change closes this pollution cycle.

Nicoya peninsula Waterkeeper took action to promote changes to correct existing pollution practices! We want to show the community that environmentally respectful practices exist and are available for everyone to implement. We promote behavior changes that benefit present and future generations and all the beautiful invaluable natural resources that surround us. The way in which we dispose of our waste is our responsibility.

The Project “Promoting waste management best practices in the coastal communities of Mal País, Playa Carmen, Santa Teresa, and Hermosa” aims at improving solid and liquid waste management in these coastal communities. We will achieve this by:

  • Promoting sustainable waste water management in the Salón Comunal through the creation of a biogarden (to treat greywater) and an efficient septic tank (to treat blackwater) as educational hands-on models
  • Building a community-managed biodigestor which will create biogas out of the grease coming from the local restaurants grease traps which will feed the Salón Comunal’s cafeteria
  • Promoting sustainable solid waste management through recycling and composting of organic waste
  • Carrying out intensive community education and awareness raising regarding waste management best practices through the creation of an Environmental Educational Space next to the Community Center in Santa Teresa and through an Environmental Fair

We want this to be a fair in which we can show the community that environmentally friendly alternatives exist and that they are available for everyone to implement in their houses and businesses. We want everybody to be educated and aware of the current best practices regarding sustainable waste management. We want this fair to help change people’s mentality and open up to new ways of doing things, new ways which respect and protect our natural resources.

Please contact us at info@nicoyawaterkeeper.org if you want to be part of this Project or have any questions, ideas or suggestions!

This Project is carried out thanks to the financial contribution of the Organization of American States – OAS.

Future projects

One River at a Time Campaign

During the past months we have walked the 18 rivers comprised between Cabo Blanco and Manzanillo. We start at the beach and walk the river 500meters in-land to check the status of the water and state of the riparian vegetation. The official results will be posted here soon but we can say that, with the commitment of the community and hard work, we can improve the quality of the water in our rivers/ocean.

In general, the first 200-250 meters are the ones presenting the most damage: houses built directly on the riverbank without respecting the regulation regarding riverbank vegetation, businesses and houses draining their residual waters directly into the rivers, inefficient septic systems which are not treating black water as they should, disposal of garbage into the river, amongst other types of pollution. After the initial 200-250meters, houses and developments become less and less, a smaller amount of pollution is produced and forest starts to appear.

Let’s respect and protect the beautiful environment in which we live. Our coastal towns live mainly from tourism, do you think tourists would still want to come if our water is polluted? If bad smells come out of drainages? Do you think people like to surf in garbage? Do you? We live in a beautiful place, let’s respect it and keep it clean! We will start cleaning “One River at a time”.

What will we do??

  • Inform the community about appropriate liquid and solid waste disposal
  • Mitigate the existing pollution on an almost case-by-case approach (through bioswales, biogardens, restructure constructions, reforestation, depending on each case)
  • Prevent these types of pollution from happening in the future. Once we know how things should be done to respect our environment and our water, we can change the way our future constructions (and those of our neighbors!) will be made

We want to involve the community actively, we all have responsibility towards our water, we all use it, benefit from it and enjoy it so let us all be involved and help us mitigate pollution “One River at a Time”.

If you are interested in learning more about this campaign, please contact us!


Ícono Educación

Education and Awareness Raising

The impacts of a growing population and a changing climate are putting pressure on our water resources. This means that everyone has a role to play to ensure a sustainable water future for the area. In Costa Rica, there is a generalized culture of water over-consumption, irrational and irresponsible use. The need for water education is clear.

Education and public awareness measures are essential for effective water resources management. Changes in basic behavior and practices are necessary to achieve long-term improvements in water use and water quality. Such changes will not occur until the population becomes aware of water issues and actions that lead to environmental degradation.

Our lives are tightly bound to water. Water issues must be addressed through greater public involvement at all socio-economic levels, among all water users. People must be provided a deeper understanding of our complex environmental issues and the skills necessary to undertake the challenges water is facing.

Through water education and awareness raising we want individuals to familiarize themselves with their watershed, to discover their role in the hydrological cycle and to recognize that water knows no boundaries, it flows through and connects us all. Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper facilitates and promotes awareness, appreciation, knowledge and stewardship of water resources.

Nicoya Peninsula Waterkeeper organizes field trips with students and teachers educating them in a dynamic and appealing way. By becoming more knowledgeable about the world of water quality, a constituency of educated stewards becomes an essential component in the management and protection of the area’s water resources.

An Environmental Fair is organized, providing the general public with interesting information regarding water-related issues in a non-formal context. Educational speeches on relevant topics are addressed. Water sports and recreational activities accompany the Fair. If you’re interested on having more information regarding our Education Program, please contact us!


Advocacy and Law Enforcement

Costa Rica’s water law dates from 1942 and is clearly not suitable for the country’s current context and needs. Ineffective government regulation concerning water and waste management along with the increase in human waste and sewage pollution resulting from population growth and urbanization, have had serious consequences for ground and surface water quality.

Water pollution in the area comes mainly from its unregulated development characterized by urban and touristic facilities with inappropriate (or non-existent) water treatment and sanitation systems, as well as from unsustainable agricultural, cattle farming, and piggeries’ practices.

The area’s scenic beauty has brought about development, boosting tourism and creating jobs. The environmental health of the coastal ecosystems is essential for the subsistence of the touristic sector. Tourism facilities’ owners, and in general, individuals in the community need to be aware that maintaining the quality of the water that we drink and that we swim in is, to a great extent, a responsibility of us all living in the community. If we keep polluting it, we will destroy it.

This context calls for advocacy to be done in two fronts: before government authorities, to demand appropriate water and sanitation regulations and services; and before polluters, to enforce the compliance of existing laws and regulations regarding water.

The data generated by our Water Quality Monitoring Program allows us to identify the origin and types of pollution, facilitate mitigation strategies and advocate for change that results in better water quality.

If you see or know of any pollution issues, please contact us! We will follow up on each case to protect the waters we all use and enjoy.