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Does your property have water? Let’s talk about it

In Costa Rica all water is owned by the State, so ideally, water availability should not be an issue. However, as you may already know, in practice that is not the reality. Costa Rica, although a

Does your property have water?

In Costa Rica all water is owned by the State, so ideally, water availability should not be an issue. However, as you may already know, in practice that is not the reality. Costa Rica, although a tropical and fairly humid country, has severe droughts at certain times of the year, and, of course during those droughts, water consumption is regulated and it might even be possible that your service is cut off for a couple of hours a day.

Depending on the area, the water can either be provided by the Costa Rican Institute of Aqueducts and Sewers (AyA – which is the state owned water provider) or a local ASADA. The ASADAS are a special type of association that manages and controls all water resources in certain rural areas. This management and control has been handed over by AyA.

So, what is a water letter and why is it important?

If you ever bought a lot to build on in Costa Rica, you know how crucial this piece of paper was to the success of your project. Briefly, the “water letter” is a certification issued by AyA or the local ASADA, stating that your property has water resources available. This may sound simple, but believe us, a property without a water letter might as well be an ecological sanctuary, because it is likely that you will not be able to build anything there, as the water letter is a mandatory requirement to obtain construction permits.

If you have a water letter, you have the certainty that you will have water access provided by one of the institutions mentioned above as well as having the guarantee that the water will be clean and acceptable for consumption, as Costa Rica has the privilege of having drinkable water naturally in 98% of urban areas and 78.8% of rural areas (Study from 2018).

If the seller does not have a water letter readily available, it must be sought during the due diligence period, during which your deposit is refundable. Make sure to check the expiration date, because water letters often expire and may not be extended. As a result, buying land with the intention of waiting years before building is dangerous.

A water letter is usually given for a period of 6 to 12 months, during which time construction permits should be obtained. If you purchase land with a valid water letter and wait too long, you will need to start the process all over again, delaying your construction by many months, if not years. Time is of the essence here.

Does your property have water?

What happens if there is no Water Letter?

If a water letter from a local provider is out of the picture, don’t freak out, we still have options, although they will require a bit of extended patience on your part.

The first option is to use a river or creek that runs through the property, or a rain harvesting system. If the water source is of adequate quality and has enough flow year round, it can be registered and granted a water concession. It is not an easy process and it will require a great deal of patience and legal advice. Expect a wait time of 1-2 years before being able to have a water concession on your property.

A second alternative is to use machines to dig a well. This is a lengthy process and requires additional steps, such as soil testing and permit approval. This process makes this alternative too complicated for most. In general, this option is realistically more suitable for big developments, in which a higher flow of water will be required.

A third option would entail the installment of an artisan’s well. The maximum allowable depth is 21 meters, and it cannot be positioned within 15 meters of another well or structure. This technique is only practical for a single property, but the quickness and ease with which it can secure a water concession make it the best option when the others fail.

When performing a due diligence process for our clients, the Outlier Real Estate team goes beyond what is customary to ensure your investment is entirely protected. Knowing how crucial a water letter is to the overall success of your project, we ensure this is something you will have in hand before you close. While this does not often happen, we have told our clients to walk away from a property, if we know there will never be an opportunity to build on it.

If you are considering purchasing a home or have already purchased a property and are having issues with water access, feel free to contact us. At Outlier Legal Services we are here to help you move, invest and live in Costa Rica.



He serves as the Lead Real Estate Team Manager at Outlier Legal. Andrés Rodríguez is finishing his Law Degree from La Salle University. Before joining our staff, he worked as a Senior Escrow Agent and in the legal department of Repretel. Resilient and attentive are adjectives that fit him perfectly.

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