Palmar Sur, Costa Rica

Palmar Sur is a community in the central‐south part of Costa Rica, about 60 miles south of Quepos, located near the Pacific Ocean in the province of Puntarenas. The community is surrounded by plantations, estuaries, mangroves and marshes and divided into several interconnected communities. The population is stable with no current plans for additional development. Once de Abril, a community east of Palmar Sur, has been considered for future inclusion in Palmar Sur’s proposed centralized system. Any other development in the future would be required to build its own treatment systems.

Palmar Sur itself is physically divided by an airport runway and its population can be divided into several different sections. Each is primarily residential, but the socioeconomic statuses and current utilization of septic tanks vary. The community has both individual and collective community septic tanks. There is some sanitary sewer infrastructure already in place in Palmar Sur, taking untreated wastewater and septic overflows to a discharge point in the Sierpe River. There is no existing infrastructure in Once de Abril.

The ASADA  (local water utility) has been proactive in seeking a centralized solution and has an idea of what they would like in terms of collection and treatment, using existing infrastructure if feasible. In terms of the treatment process, Palmar Sur would like a low maintenance, aesthetic and natural looking process, such as constructed wetlands or lagoons. Although land is normally an issue, in this case the ASADA has already reserved land for a treatment system, and the community is on AyA’s priority list for development.

Palmar Sur was the subject for the 2018 Student Design Competition. After review and finalization of the student design by GWS professionals, the preliminary design is currently in the process of being finalized by the local ASADA for implementation. The ASADA and AyA (water and wastewater government agency) are working together to fund the centralized system. Assistance will be needed from GWS for training of operators to operate and maintain the system. This collaboration is key to the success of the project, as well as an example for other communities on teamwork between local and national stakeholders.

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