Luis Palacios

Costa Rica

On June 12, 2024, a new Regulation to the Water Law entered into effect, including various changes that favor citizens by streamlining and developing procedures that had become obsolete because the Water Law was issued in 1942, and lacked congruence nowadays.

Below, we will summarize the main innovations that the new regulation brings.

Use of surface water:

The first significant change that the new regulations bring is to develop a process for surface water concessions, which until now did not have clear directions and were governed by analogy to other methods.

In the previous surface water concession process, the interested party could present technical reports by private professionals. This step avoids the need for an inspection by Water Directorate officials, a phase that generally causes the most cumbersome delays.

Concessions issued based on reports carried out by private studies will be conditional for one year and become definitive if no rival claim surfaces within said period.

Expediting modifications to granted concessions:

Another positive change in the new regulation is that when a party with a water concession must make a modification that does not imply an increase in flow (such as changes in water use or the intake point), such party may submit a change request that the Water Directorate has to resolve within a maximum period of twelve (12) calendar days.

Grant Breakdowns:

The new regulation addresses the issue of water distribution when a property benefiting from a concession is isolated. Then, the owners of the resulting properties that require water may submit to the Water Directorate a demand for the breakdown of the concession within a maximum of thirteen (13) days.

Expediting concession renewal:

When the concession renewal is requested under the same terms as granted originally, the Water Directorate must resolve the request within ten  (10) calendar days after the deadline for hearing edicts has expired. In this way, the renewal process could take approximately 45 days.

Regulation of permits for channel works:

For the first time, the concept of works in progress, which until now had been managed through internal guidelines, is regulated.

The regulations define the requirements and processes applicable for each type of work in the channel:

  • Minor works: The list includes the extraction of trees, logs, large rocks, or foreign objects without changing or removing the solid floor or walls of the channel, the repair and maintenance of the bases of bridges, and the protection or retaining walls of property lands adjacent up to a maximum length of 50 meters.

The legal period to authorize a minor channel work is eight (8) calendar days.

  • Major works: Such works consist of dredging and rehabilitating the firm floor and walls of the channel, transfers, pipes, culvert passages greater than 8 meters in length, fords, channeling, diversions, and retaining walls longer than 50 meters.

The authorization process can take around 23 calendar days.

Water regulation in Costa Rica is a controversial and challenging subject where failures already inform the outdated Water Law. The new regulation represents an effort to modernize procedures that, until now, were cumbersome and obscure and streamline various processes that could have taken years before this regulation went into effect.