MQC Photo Costa Rica

Tarcoles River

The Tárcoles river basin is one of the main water veins of Costa Rica. It originates on the southern slopes of the Central Volcanic Mountain Range and flows in a south-westerly direction, crossing the central valley, to the Central Pacific coast of the country. Before getting to the ocean, its affluents go through many towns of the Central Valley, where more than half of the Costa Rican population lives.

On its way down to the Pacific, the rivers collect enormous amounts of waste. Recent studies by the University of Costa Rica and the Water and Sewage Institute (AyA) came out with scary numbers showing that the Tárcoles river basin is the most contaminated river, not only in Costa Rica, but in Central America. Approximately 67% of the Costa Rica’s untreated organic and industrial waste is drained by the river’s watershed.

When one gets to the Tárcoles river mouth, it is easy to see huge accumulations of trash all over. Even though the rain water, the surrounding protected transitional forest (Carara National Park), and the protected mangrove areas, help dilute and drain some of the sewage contamination, the solid waste is something that can not be hidden.

Despite all the contamination around the river mouth, it is still possible to see at least 250 species of birds, including the beautiful Scarlet Macaw; several mammals, including monkeys and racoons; and a high concentration of the magnificent American Crocodile, with some of the biggest individuals ever reported.

The American Crocodile is a species located high up in the food chain, so its high concentration of individuals in the river mouth says that the river is still living. Now the question is, how much longer could this ecosystem coexist with so much contamination.