Thursday, February 26, 2009
Wednesday, February 25, 2009
Alazan Field Notes
Kent Nelson February 14, 2009 Vol. 1.09
Water Conservation Taken Seriously
You’d think that living in the tropics where several feet of rain fall each year would yield an endless supply of water. This statement IS partially true.
Water falls at higher elevations along the country’s mountainous spines pretty much year around. So the main rivers run all year, their water levels fluctuating with storm events. But this is not potable water.
Alazan gets its drinking water from an artesian well field many miles up into the mountains. The water is captured at the source in concrete bunkers and is then piped down the mountain to users in the Parrita River valley. In fact, these water users have organized themselves into an ASADA, or water management district to maintain and repair the system.
Because Alazan is located within the ASADA‘s jurisdiction, the project was given permission to tap into the water line for residential use. The water flows from the main line into a staging tank in Alazan’s meadow. From there the water is pumped up 700 feet to a larger holding tank between Lots 7 and 17. The water is distributed to the various lots from this point.
This system works well for Alazan, but has some very real limitations which must be taken into consideration when lot owners begin to design their homes and surrounding landscaping.
WATER SUPPLY AND DELIVERY CHALLENGES
- The ASADA’s main water line is only a 1” line. So the capacity of the system to move large amounts of water throughout the distribution are is limited.
- The ASADA’s water system is subject to interruption when pipes break. This most often occurs during the rainy season when landslides in the high country cause pipe breaks. Depending of the severity of the damage, the system can be down for several days. Alazan’s ability to extract and move water to homeowners is constrained by #1 and #2 above. Basically, the ASADA’s limitations “trickle” down to all of its users. While the developers of Alazan have designed storage and carryover capacity to the water distribution system, one cannot squeeze blood from a turnip.
- The physical components of Alazan’s water system are not infallible. Pipes break, pumps fail, and the electricity to operate the pump can go out for hours if not days depending on the situation.
All of these factors make a compelling case for water conservation by every homeowner. Here are some tips that come from my personal observations as a resident at Alazan:
WATER CONSERVATION TIPS
- Water-saving appliances and plumbing fixtures really work. My new high efficiency (HE) GE washer uses a fraction of the water used by a standard top-loading machine. My shower head provides a perfectly wonderful shower at a fraction of the flow rate of “rain forest” shower head.
- Exterior landscaping uses the vast majority of an average households annual water consumption, especially in dry climates. Even though Costa Rica has a rainy season from July - October, the dry months of February, March and April can be really tough on ornamental plants not adapted to the natural precipitation cycle. To keep large areas of these tender plants alive, a substantial volume of water is required. Homeowners are HIGHLY encourage to limit the areas of manicured landscaping and use plants that are resistant to drought conditions. There is no way Alazan’s water system will be able to support vast gardens like the ones we so adore at Big Ruby’s in Manuel Antonio. Besides, Nature provides some pretty spectacular plants of her own here at Alazan.
- Greywater capture and reuse can provide an important supplemental supply of water for exterior landscaping. Alazan’s Homeowner Guidelines provide a lot of information on this topic. And some of our homeowners are well-versed on the topic and would gladly assist others with integrating greywater management into their home designs.
- Rainwater capture from the roofs of homes is another way to supplement water supply needs in a home. Rainwater can be easily used for outdoor landscaping, but requires specialized treatment for to deliver potable water for drinking. An amazing amount of organic matter collects on roofs here in the tropics, most notably leaves, insects, and iguana and monkey poop.
- Each homeowner should consider installing a small water storage tank at their home. This would provide some back-up storage in case the perfect storm visits our area where several events occur simultaneously: the ASADA system fails, the electricity system fails, and there is a pipe or tank break within Alazan. This scenario is not impossible.
Please take this information into consideration when you are working with an architect to design your dream home in Alazan. We want to be able to provide fresh and clean water for all.