Water Woes After Group Loses Concession

March 27, 2009

TAMARINDO – A recent change in water companies has left hundreds of residents without water here.

Servicios Beko, a private company that had supplied water to the beach town since 1994, closed its doors on March 5 because of a failure to have its concession renewed, leaving some 375 residences dry.

The Costa Rican Water and Sewer Institute (AyA) assumed control of Beko’s six wells and will be the only legal distributor of water in Tamarindo in the northwestern province of Guanacaste.

But AyA has not been able to return regular service to many of Beko’s former clients, and some residents have been waiting almost a month for service.

“It’s ridiculous,” said Marty Sheridan, a 12-year Tamarindo resident. “We have no water and we don’t know when we will.”

Sheridan and his family of four have to conserve as much water as possible in a 600-gallon tank behind their house. The tank was half-empty as of Monday.

An AyA delivery truck is supposed to supply water to the residents until the company is able to provide a consistent service, and while the local AyA office said the truck delivers water everyday, few residents agree.

“I’ve seen it five times since Beko closed,” Sheridan said.

His neighbors have the same problem.

“It’s always the same with AyA,” said David Falla-Alpizar, who lives next to Sheridan.

“They drive around but they don’t do anything,” he said as an empty AyA truck passed.

Alpizar said he relies on private water deliveries that he purchases from nearby towns. Some days, he pays as much as ¢80,000 ($143) for a day’s supply of water.

The water service in Costa Rica is public, which means that companies who wish to supply water privately must have a legal concession from the Environment, Energy and Telecommunications Ministry (MINAET).

Beko had a 15-year concession that expired on Feb. 14.

The company hoped to renew the concession, but administrative appeals court ruled it illegal for a private company to provide a public service.

A judicial order required Beko to hand over the necessary equipment for the operation of its aqueduct to AyA.

Federico Amador, president of the Tamarindo Improvement Association, and who has worked closely with the issue, said Beko failed to provide the water pumps required to serve the community, and added that Beko also did not give essential customer account information to AyA. Both issues have prolonged the delay, he said.

The local AyA office said they are going door-to-door to collect account information from former Beko clients.

Beko denies the allegations.

“We gave them everything we had to when we had to,” said Beko’s lawyer Esteban Alfaro. “The things (AyA) are asking for are not necessary to operate the system.”

Alfaro said that AyA is asking for things like the keys to Beko’s old office and other supplies that don’t have any bearing on the water system. He said he personally handed all the customer account information to the AyA office in Pavas, west of San José.

AyA said it is working as quickly as possible to repair the system that it claims Beko left in disrepair, but said the process takes time.

“It’s a process,” said Rafael Vargas, a representative for AyA’s emergency sector. “We’re returning service little by little.”

AyA began installing water pumps on Tuesday, and Amador said all Tamarindo residents should have constant flow by the end of March.

But while both sides are busy pointing fingers, some Tamarindo residents are left with their tongues hanging out.

“It’s simple. There’s no water,” Sheridan said. “There is just no water.”

 

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