Costa Rica: Adaptation and vulnerability reduction to climate change in the water sector: Upper Basin of the Reventazon River (#416)

The Reventazon River Basin has been subjected to severe degradation, mainly through water pollution, leading to proliferation of disease, increased cost of drinking water, and endangered biodiversity. Action was taken by establishing the Committee for the Management and Planning of the Reventazon River Basin working with conservation and land management. The key lesson for success is the importance of the coordination of the different actors that deal with the basin management. 


The increasing degradation of the Reventazon River Basin, mainly through water pollution, was the reason for the establishment of the Committee for the Management and Planning of the Reventazon River Basin (COMCURE), who takes measures in its control and protection. 

The contamination of water promotes the proliferation of waterborne diseases, reduces the number of available water sources, raises the costs for supplying drinking water and is a threat to many species of flora and fauna.

Between 2000 and 2009, the vegetation of the watershed has been increased by 11%, which contributes to increased infiltration, reduced flooding and landslides.  In this way the basin is less vulnerable during extreme events. In the last 10 years COMCURE has implemented conservation and land management actions that have reduced the amount of sediment that reaches the dams by approximately 20%. This has a social and economic impact since sediments reduce the volume of water in the dams and affect the availability of water for the generation of hydroenergy.

As a consequence, fosil fuel consumption is increased as well as the cost of electricity production, which is passed on to the final users. . In addition, many other actions that have been implemented to date and have contributed to the adaptation and vulnerability reduction to climate change on the water resources in the basin, although this was not part of the original design.

Management actions are currently being implemented in 80% of the Reventazon River basin. This generates valuable lessons that can be used to replicate in other watersheds throughout the country. 

Lessons learned

The key element for the outcome of this case has been the coordination of the different actors that deal with the basin management, including public and private sectors, and consumer groups, environmental and agricultural associations, development organizations and local water committees. They have a common objective, based on the basin water management plan.

COMCURE was created by law and the legal backing has been fundamental for the credibility of the organization. This has allowed the implementation of actions that have improved the situation of the basin.

Currently, the funding for the implementation of the management plan comes from the national budget, the water levy and the contribution of institutions that are part of COMCURE. It is important to highlight that a sustainable source for financing is important to cover the annual costs of the implementation of the basin plan.

The establishment of multidisciplinary teams to implement the actions have been a key for the success of this initiative. 

Photo credit: David Berkowitz