Tempisque-Bebedero Basin (Costa Rica)

Water Users/ Stakeholders

The Tempisque-Bebedero catchment system has experienced a significant increase in land used for agriculture and crops that depend on irrigation. The area used for crop agriculture (pasture excluded) in the catchment increased from 0% in 1950 to 4.4% in 1974, to 24.7% in 2000 and to 27.8% in 2010. A total of 940km2 was used for crop production in the catchment in 2010 (Figure 1). Irrigated agriculture started in the 1970’s with the construction of the first phase of the Tempisque-Arenal Irrigation District (TAID – 60km2) and comprised around 130km2 in 2000. The TAID has currently a total length of 366km of irrigation channels. In the 1980’s, the agricultural model finally shifted from a more subsidence-oriented to an industrial and export-oriented model increasing productivity and diversification. The latter shift was mainly driven by the insertion of Costa Rica into international markets, which culminated in the Free Trade Agreement with the USA in 2009.

The Tempisque-Bebedero catchment system is also linked to the country’s largest hydropower project Lake Arenal (Figure 1). Although, situated on the Caribbean slope, water from Lake Arenal is transferred to the Pacific slope Tempisque-Bebedero catchment for hydropower generation and successive irrigation. Lake Arenal contributes around 17% to the national power grid (installed capacity of 157MW). In consequence, some of the activities have a noticeable impact on key ecosystems, such as the Palo Verde Wetland National Park affecting the overall water quality and quantity.


References and further reading:

Fondo Nacional de Financiamiento Forestal FONAFIFO (2012) Estudio de cobertura forestal de Costa Rica 2009-2010.

Instituto Nacional de Estadística y Censos, INEC (2014) VI Censo Nacional Agropecuario.

Magaña, V., Amador, J.A., and Medina, S. (1999) The midsummer drought over Mexico and Central America. J. Climate, 12 (1967): 1577-1588, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442 (1999)012<1577:TMDOMA>2.0.CO;2.

Peel, M. C., Finlayson, B. L., and McMahon, T. A. (2007) Updated world map of the Köppen-Geiger climate classification. Hydrol. Earth Syst. Sci., 11, 1633-1644, doi:10.5194/hess-11-1633-2007.

Tecnológico de Costa Rica, TEC (2014) Altas de Costa Rica.

Waylen, M.E. (1996) Interannual variability of monthly precipitation in Costa Rica. J. Climate, 9: 2606-2613, doi: http://dx.doi.org/10.1175/1520-0442(1996)009<2606:IVOMPI>2.0.CO;2.

WorldClim global product: http://www.worldclim.org/tiles.php?Zone=23

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