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Table 1.

Overview of the development of surface and groundwater legal frameworks in Costa Rica.

YearsLegal frameworkKey aspect
1821–1883 No formal legislation Roman legal tradition recognized surface and groundwater resources as common good 
1884–1941 First Water Law (1884) Introduced the concept of water as a public good; however, this does not include groundwater. The owner of the land where groundwater was found was considered as its owner and could use it infinitely 
1942–1972 Second Water Law (1942) (still in force) Introduced permits or ‘concessions’ to use groundwater. However, this law does not define groundwater 
Law No. 2726 (1969) created the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage (AyA – its Spanish acronym) Article 2.g established that AyA may administer water services in collaboration with local communities. This led to the legal birth of the Communal Administrative Associations of Aqueducts and Sewage (ASADAs – its Spanish acronym) 
1973–1990 Law No. 5438 (1973) Established the National Groundwater Service to regulate and control groundwater use for agriculture 
Law No. 6877 (1983) Reformed the National Groundwater Service and created the National Service for Groundwater, Irrigation and Drainage (SENARA – its Spanish acronym). This law does not define groundwater 
Mining Code, Law No. 6797(1982) Mining Code established that groundwater is reserved for the state and reaffirmed the need of concessions to use it. However, this law does not define groundwater 
1991–1999 Wildlife Conservation Law (1992) Recognized the principle of protection of water (where groundwater is implicit) 
Environmental Law (1995) Confirmed the public good nature of water as well as the importance of its sustainable use (where groundwater is also implicit). This law also recognizes the importance of active participation of the inhabitants in decision-making in relation to the protection of the environment 
Forestry Law (1996) Established protected areas of springs and rivers 
2000–2017 Ordinance for Environmental Fee for Discharges, Executive Degree No. 31176-MINAE (2003) Established fees in order to discharge waste water 
Ordinance for Water Use, Executive Degree No. 32868-MINAE (2006) Established fees in order to use water. There is a clear mention here about groundwater use (art. 4) 
Ordinance for Drilling the Subsurface for the Exploitation and Utilisation of Groundwater, Executive Degree No. 35884-MINAET (2010) Regulated wells and the procedures to obtain groundwater concessions (permits) from the Water Directorate of MINAE. However, this ordinance does not define groundwater 
YearsLegal frameworkKey aspect
1821–1883 No formal legislation Roman legal tradition recognized surface and groundwater resources as common good 
1884–1941 First Water Law (1884) Introduced the concept of water as a public good; however, this does not include groundwater. The owner of the land where groundwater was found was considered as its owner and could use it infinitely 
1942–1972 Second Water Law (1942) (still in force) Introduced permits or ‘concessions’ to use groundwater. However, this law does not define groundwater 
Law No. 2726 (1969) created the Institute of Aqueducts and Sewage (AyA – its Spanish acronym) Article 2.g established that AyA may administer water services in collaboration with local communities. This led to the legal birth of the Communal Administrative Associations of Aqueducts and Sewage (ASADAs – its Spanish acronym) 
1973–1990 Law No. 5438 (1973) Established the National Groundwater Service to regulate and control groundwater use for agriculture 
Law No. 6877 (1983) Reformed the National Groundwater Service and created the National Service for Groundwater, Irrigation and Drainage (SENARA – its Spanish acronym). This law does not define groundwater 
Mining Code, Law No. 6797(1982) Mining Code established that groundwater is reserved for the state and reaffirmed the need of concessions to use it. However, this law does not define groundwater 
1991–1999 Wildlife Conservation Law (1992) Recognized the principle of protection of water (where groundwater is implicit) 
Environmental Law (1995) Confirmed the public good nature of water as well as the importance of its sustainable use (where groundwater is also implicit). This law also recognizes the importance of active participation of the inhabitants in decision-making in relation to the protection of the environment 
Forestry Law (1996) Established protected areas of springs and rivers 
2000–2017 Ordinance for Environmental Fee for Discharges, Executive Degree No. 31176-MINAE (2003) Established fees in order to discharge waste water 
Ordinance for Water Use, Executive Degree No. 32868-MINAE (2006) Established fees in order to use water. There is a clear mention here about groundwater use (art. 4) 
Ordinance for Drilling the Subsurface for the Exploitation and Utilisation of Groundwater, Executive Degree No. 35884-MINAET (2010) Regulated wells and the procedures to obtain groundwater concessions (permits) from the Water Directorate of MINAE. However, this ordinance does not define groundwater 
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