Global Water Stewardship visits communities in Costa Rica twice per year. However, the progression of large-scale projects relies on a variety of factors before construction of centralized treatment systems can begin. In order to make an immediate impact on the communities we care about, GWS began building biogardens at local schools during its trips to the country.
What is a biogarden? Essentially, it is a low-cost, low-maintenance, aesthetically pleasing method to treat wastewater, often greywater (water from baths, sinks, and washing machines). The garden is a constructed pit that is lined and filled with stones and gravel. There is no soil. Biogardens utilize the basic wastewater treatment processes of sedimentation and attached biological treatment to clean the water. Plant roots take up nutrients from the wastewater, resulting in clean effluent.
Biogardens are beneficial in areas that won’t likely have the opportunity to connect into collection systems in the future, such as beach bathrooms. Schools and hotels are also ideal locations, as the biogardens provide educational value to those populations.
The first school to receive a biogarden built by GWS was Escuela Verde, near Bahia Ballena, in August of 2017. Before travelling, the team began design with data provided by the preschool owner. In-country, the biogarden took several days to construct as it was completed via manual labor. In addition, the layout and piping plan had to be designed on-site.
In August of 2018, GWS professionals and students headed to Santa Elena in the mountainous Monteverde region to install a biogarden to treat kitchen greywater at the Cloud Forest School. Previously, greywater was surface discharged on-site to open canals. With the assistance of a local back-hoe operator, the project was completed in a single day—a significant improvement from 2017. Though the alternative may have built some character, all agreed that 30 USD for the local excavator was a very wise investment and allowed for a more efficient overall visit.