New Water Law Approved in Costa Rica

Posted: 2014-05-16

On March 31st 2014, the Costa Rican Congress passed the new Water Law. For over a decade the Central American countries have been working on reforming their water legislative and institutional frameworks, and one of the pioneers in this process has been Costa Rica.

Costa Rica is among the top four countries in the region with the highest water supply, representing a total of 24,784 m3 per capita per year and around 87% of the population has access to drinking water and more than 500 thousand people still don´t have access to drinking water. 

The country had a Water Law from 1942, but it did not include the principles of modern management of water resources based on the principles of Dublin and IWRM. The 1942 Water Law was predominantly focused on surface water, leaving groundwater out of the loop, which is an important issue considering that 70% of water supply in Costa Rica comes from underground sources. 

That is why for over 10 years GWP together with a number of organisations have been working towards a new water law based on IWRM principles. To strengthen this and other similar processes throughout the region, GWP Central America engaged in the organisation of annual conferences for legislators that were backed up by regular technical advice. In the meantime, while the water act was in the making, GWP Costa Rica kept on supporting consultation and technical advice processes that led to important benchmarks in the water governance framework in this country, such as the National Water Policy, amongst others.  

An opportunity for consensus was presented at the end of the previous legislature and the water bill was approved by the members of Congress on March 31st.  The new Water Law provides a transparent and straightforward direction for water management and promotes civil participation through regional water management structures. It also recognizes the Human Right to Water and Sanitation and considers modifications to the granting of water use concessions.

This important step in strengthening the governance framework for water management in Costa Rica is in part due to the efforts and long-term commitment of a number of GWP partner organisations who have been technically supporting the process.

Photo: Nuayaca Waterfalls in Costa Rica.

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