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Jessica Winkler

Owner, Kite Beach Yucatan

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Water pollution. How big a problem is it?

Over the past 5 years i've had to close down two of my kiteboarding schools due to water pollution. I would like to open up a discussion on how water pollution has effected people and if you feel it is a serious problem or not. In my experience spending over 3 hours a day in the ocean, water pollution is a major issue that so few people in the sports industry are addressing. That being said surfers against pollution is a wonderful organisation and they are doing a great job but its a small percentage of people. I wrote this article below and after publishing it got a fair amount of grief from people living in the affected areas saying I was being unfair and harsh. What do you think?


Topics: Clean water

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  • Mar 11 2014: Hi Jessica. I've swam and kitesurfed in lake Nicaragua more times than I can count and drank plenty of water in the process and never got sick. Your article makes it seem like 6 million people pump their sewage into lake Nicaragua which is simply untrue. Lake Managua is a true sewage destination for the capital, Lake Nicaragua is not. They have already started to clean up lake Managua but that is another story/lake anyways. Water pollution is definitely a worldwide issue, but Nicaragua in particular has pretty clean water considering you can drink it straight from the tap with no issues. Many places even in the US are not that clean.

    Some people do direct their sewage to rivers that leads to lake Nicaragua but that is not something everyone does. There are a few neighborhoods near the lake that are unorganized enough to do that. The government is trying to install sewer systems to avoid this since the population in areas near the lake has been increasing and there is one river in particular that is problematic, shown in the link below.


    As a personal example, when sewage was not available at 2 of the houses I lived in in the countryside of Nicaragua, we had septic tanks. Septic tanks are pretty common throughout Nicaragua, that's why most places tell you not to throw toilet paper in the toilet.

    I thought you had closed the school in Nicaragua due to lack of interest in kiteboarding there since the spot you taught at was far off the beaten path in some private land. Harder to get people to sign up for it that way aside from it being a new sport to Nicaragua and way too expensive for most locals.
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      Mar 11 2014: Thank you for taking the time to post something. I'm very happy to hear there is so much improvement in Nicaragua as far as pollution. I have not been there since 2010 so I didn't know what was going on.
      You are right about Managua dumping into Lake Managua and not Lake Nicaragua. I made an error on that.

      Listen i'm not saying every single person who goes in the water in Nica or Mexico is going to or has gotten sick. I had a problem with getting eye infections in Lake Nicaragua and so did a few of my clients but not all of them.

      I did not have a problem with getting students in Nicaragua because I was based in SJDS, working out of surf shop. Even to this day some 4 years later I still get emails from people looking to book kite lessons with me there.....
      • Mar 11 2014: When writing an article it's good to investigate first. Misinformation of that nature is bad for the country's tourism.
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          Mar 12 2014: The only mistake I made was saying which lake the sewage is dumped into. The rest of what I said was personal experience and true at the time of it happening. Like I said i'm happy there has been improvements but in 2010 the information I had on the sewage being dumped into the lake was accurate.
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          Mar 12 2014: Here is an article which outlines the problems with pollution in Nica. For example: Leptospirosis Confirmed Throughout Nicaragua - Cases of the water-borne parasite leptospirosis have been confirmed in every department in Nicaragua and one of the country's two Caribbean autonomous regions, experts said."

          It's a long document but if read through it you will see support of my claims.
      • Mar 13 2014: The link didnt post correctly, can you repost it? Here are the points in your article that are incorrect:

        "None of the cities or villages in Nicaragua have sewage treatment plants." - In 2009 the biggest water treatment plant of Central America was innagurated in Managua to treat the city's 120,000 cubic meters of water a day, the entire wastewater for the city. A third of the country's population (more than 2 million) lives in Managua. None of this ever went to Lake Nicaragua. Overall in Nicaragua, 42% of wastewater is collected and treated. Then we have all the people that use septic tanks: in a study done by the World Bank in 100 rural Nicaraguan communities in 2008, 82.5% of the population had access to sanitary facilities (septic tanks) but only 50% were without any flaw (has breather tube and door to the letrine).


        "They pump the sewage directly into the lake, and for a population of nearly 6 million people, this is just downright gross!" - This statement assumes everyone is connected to the sewage and the sewage is directed to lake Nicaragua. Almost no one outside the capital and main cities has access to a sewer system. Most of the population lives nowhere near lake Nicaragua. Cities like Granada and Rivas have wastewater treatment facilities that are quite inadequate but exist nonetheless. People that aren't connected to them generally have septic tanks either connected to house plumbing (middle class) or as a letrine (lower class) unless they are extremely poor in which case the poop goes into streams behind the house that can end up in the closest lake. People without any sanitation facilities are 17.5% of the rural population (not total population), most of which don't live anywhere near lake Nicaragua.

        In Summary: Sure some poop goes in that lake, but it's minimal relatively speaking.

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