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Water Quality & You

Water is essential to all life on Earth. We use it in everyday aspects of life including quenching thirst, washing objects or clothing, bathing, sanitation, and recreational activities such as swimming or surfing.

These human activities in addition to land-use practices cause loss of valuable habitats and associated biodiversity; in addition to adverse effects on water quality.

Currently in Costa Rica, only 14% of wastewater is treated and 70% of sewage collection is done through septic tanks. However, many septic tanks are not suitable and are located in vulnerable areas; meaning a lot of sewage is polluting clean, usable water and water that could be recycled is wasted.


While most countries have sewage treatment plants that serve entire communities, in Costa Rica each individual home must have its own wastewater treatment plant or septic system and drainfield. Unfortunately, there is a high chance of these systems malfunctioning and flooding resulting in polluted water sources.

Wastewater Treatment 101

There are two types of wastewater:

  • Black water must be in a septic system or treated. This is the water that comes from the toilet and has come into contact with fecal matter.

  • Grey water can be reused or separated and used to water plants. However, it can also become contaminated with soap, fat, and oil, and hair as well.

A typical septic wastewater treatment system should have:

  1. A grease-trap installed in the plumbing from your kitchen sink that removes oil from the water.

  2. An appropriately sized two-tank septic system that separates any solids from the clean water.

  3. An anaerobic filter that filters additional debris

  4. An appropriately sized absorption or drainage field, which provides the final dispersal of the wastewater.

Concerned you may be contributing to the problem?

Learn more about wastewater treatment and what to look out for in our Wastewater Guide!

Check before you swim!

With reports of pollution and health issues after swimming in the Nosara area, the Wildlife Conservation Association began collecting samples and testing water quality at three locations weekly, throughout the year.

Results so far indicate water contamination during the rainy season is a health risk and swimmers should exercise caution, especially after heavy rainfall.

Follow us on social media or check for updates on the latest water quality results!



United States Environmental Protection Agency. How Your Septic System Works.

Thermaco. What is a grease trap?

Bruce Lesikar. Septic Tank and Soil Absorption Field. Texas A & M.

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