Integrating Water and Energy Engineering with Ecotourism in a Costa Rican Aboriginal Community

EPA Grant Number: SU835941
Title: Integrating Water and Energy Engineering with Ecotourism in a Costa Rican Aboriginal Community
Investigators: Reinhold, Dawn
Institution: Michigan State University
EPA Project Officer: Nolt-Helms, Cynthia
Phase: II
Project Period: October 1, 2015 through September 30, 2017
Project Amount: $74,980
RFA: P3 Awards: A National Student Design Competition for Sustainability Focusing on People, Prosperity and the Planet - Phase 2 (2015) Recipients Lists
Research Category: Sustainability , P3 Awards , Pollution Prevention/Sustainable Development , P3 Challenge Area - Water

Objective:

Our objective is to further develop the technology of coupled solar-assisted biodigesters and treatment wetland systems while promoting sustainable development in the Shuabb community. The specific objectives are to:

  1. Demonstrate the efficacy and practicality of the designed systems through installation and monitoring of the designed systems at two locations in the Shuabb community, specifically the ecotourism facility and the community school.
  2. Increase the lifespan of the ecotourism site through design of site hydrology to promote evapotranspiration and environmentally-responsible drainage of the increased water inputs due to tourism.
  3. Promote ecotourism in the Shuabb community while educating potential ecotourists about small-scale water treatment, solar-assisted biodigesters, and treatment wetlands.
  4. Train U.S. engineers to work within and with different cultures.

Approach:

The systems will be installed by students from both Michigan State University and the Universidad de Costa Rica, who will also train community members to regularly monitor the systems for treatment of water quality parameters through the excellent relationship the Technological Institute of Costa Rica has in the community. Additionally, samples will be analyzed by a certified environmental laboratory in Costa Rica to collect the information necessary to propose that solar-assisted biodigesters and treatment wetlands be accepted as alternatives to the current septic pit standard in Costa Rica. During our visits, team members will survey the ecotourism facility and subsequently design best management practices to minimize site flooding and erosion.

To promote ecotourism in Shuabb, Nicole Kruse (current team member in Computer Science) will rebuild the existing Shuabb ecotourism website (http://iririatalamanca.org/), which is currently very simplistic, to better market the facility and educate visitors about the alternative water, wastewater, and energy solutions.

To train U.S. students to work with other cultures, installation of the two systems will be used to train 7 – 8 students from MSU and 3 students from the University of Costa Rica in implementation and monitoring of engineering systems at an international and remote site. Additionally, current team members from UCR, Yasmin Granados Torres Human Rights Attorney) and David Arias Hidalgo (Sustainable Tourism Management) will work with the project to involve the community during installation, sharing Bribri culture with the engineering team.

Expected Results:

The project is expected to design, implement, and test a full-scale system for rural or aboriginal communities in Costa Rica that provides wastewater treatment, energy, and clean water. As such, the project is expected to greatly advance the standardization of such systems by Costa Rican authorities. Locally, the project is expected to promote the synergy between people, prosperity, and planet by sustainably developing the Shuabb communities ecotourism and school facilities.

Supplemental Keywords:

Green infrastructure, Water quality, Wastewater management, Bioenergy, Design wetland, Sustainable rural development;

Relevant Websites:

P3 Phase 1: Integrating Water and Energy Engineering with Ecotourism in a Costa Rican Aboriginal Community

P3 Phase I:

Integrating Water and Energy Engineering with Ecotourism in a Costa Rican Aboriginal Community