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Research article2019Peer reviewed

Household and community responses to seasonal droughts in rural areas of Costa Rica

Madrigal-Ballestero, Róger; Capitán Jimenéz, Tabaré; Salas, Ariana; Córdoba, Daniela


This paper describes the adaptive responses of rural households and community-based drinking water organizations (CWOs) during seasonal droughts in Costa Rica. It empirically characterizes the adaptive measures used by 3,410 households and 81 CWOs in the driest area of the country. Volumetric pricing is a powerful adaptation option for managing water scarcity during these periods. However, these pricing schemes are not properly set to recover costs for adequate investment in water infrastructure. As a result, many CWOs rely on external financial support to cover these investments. The financial and governance restrictions characterizing most CWOs must be overcome in order to implement most of the adaptation measures identified for preparedness against seasonal drought. On the other hand, some rural households use water sources in addition to the tap water provided by CWOs (e.g. bottled water), as well as water-storing devices (e.g. buckets). The lack of effective adaptation of CWOs to water scarcity, expressed by unreliable piped-water systems, would probably lead to a higher use of these alternatives. This would entail higher costs to households, due to the time and resources invested in these activities. These costs and the potential additional costs on health represent the social costs of community failures to adapt to drier scenarios in existing piped-water systems.


institutions; adaptation; climate change; governance; volumetric pricing

Published in

2019, Volume: 38, number: 4, pages: 286-304 ISBN: 17563488 02628104

    UKÄ Subject classification

    Social Sciences Interdisciplinary

    Publication identifier


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