Project Title: The Vanishing River: Water Availability and Tourism in Uvita, Costa Rica
Student: Christopher Pessell ’18
Mentor: Dr. Nathan Amador
Tourism is one of Costa Rica’s main economic sectors with over 2 million international arrivals in 2014. To sustain and develop tourism in the country, water must be kept clean and accessible for tourists while continuing to support the 4.8 million people currently residing within its borders. A notable characteristic of tropical climate is the variability in precipitation which generates ‘wet’ (May – November) and ‘dry’ (December – April) seasons. In particular, the majority of tourists arriving into the country is during the dry season, which corresponds to winter in the northern hemispheric mid-latitudes (e.g., Ohio). The addition of the significant number of tourists during the dry seasons places a stress on the availability of water during the dry season. To analyze the effect of this water stress on the hydrologic system, water quality measurements, including discharge, temperature, and pH at six sites were recorded for the watershed encompassing the southwestern coastal town of Uvita. Results show that water discharge was relatively low (between 0.071 - 0.422 m3s-1), and streams were observed to not reach the ocean. This confirms that the low water flow during the dry season is partially responsible for the strict water restrictions for the resident population.