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QCOSTARICA by Roberto Acuña Ávalos, Vozdeguanacaste – Converting seawater into drinking water is an idea that will be tangible in the Reserva Conchal hotel, following the construction of the first desalination project in the country.

Gisela Sanchez, hotel spokesperson, cofirmed this, stating that the plant is in a preliminary phase of design studies and permit requests, which they initiated in April of 2014. However, they hope to start work by the end of next year.

“It will produce 23 liters of drinking water per second. The use will be for human consumption within the building project,” the spokesperson said in an email.

Desalination plants are designed to remove salts from seawater so it can be used for drinking.

During his visit to the province in July, Edgar Gutierrez, Minister of Environment and Energy (MINAE), told The Voice of Guanacaste that they have had to train technicians in this field since it is the first desalination project.

“As you well know, desalination is not common in Costa Rica, so we have already trained 15 technicians from various government and public institutions like AyA, Senara, MINAE, Setena, etc., so they understand what it is about,” said the minister.

Gutierrez added that they are drawing on the experience from Reserva Conchal to create rules for desalination plants, which are being drafted by MINAE.

For her part, the president of AyA, Yamileth Astorga, explained that AyA will be in charge of controlling the standards of the water.

“What we are going to regulate is the quality of water that they are going to give to their guests. In the institution, a specialized commission was formed for this type of technology. In Costa Rica, there is very little knowledge, which is why the United States Environmental Protection Agency was approached,” said the president.

Waste Goes Back into the Sea

Desalination projects are now used in some countries like Spain, Japan and Korea, among others. However, some environmental groups are opposedsince the residues such as brine— liquid with a  concentration of salt—are dumped back into the sea.

Cristian Fonseca, marine biologist from the National University’s Marine Station, explained that the impact is very little as long as the discharges are natural with no additional chemicals.

“The issue is where the waste is dumped. If the waste, such as the brine, is dumped in large spaces, there is no problem because the salts are dissolved in the sea. Marine organisms are accustomed to changes in salt, pH and temperature due to changes in nature itself. The issue is when it is deposited in a small space like a mangrove. That is where it can be affected,” the biologist stated.

The Voice of Guanacaste tried to find out the cost of the project, but the hotel declined to respond.