Well-known social commentator and St Andrew farmer Richard Hoad has poured cold water on Government’s plan to construct two desalination plants as a long-term solution to the water woes facing the island, especially residents in some northern and eastern communities.
At a media conference last week, Minister of Agriculture and Water Resources Management Dr David Estwick promised affected residents that Government would be solving current water problems through short, medium, and long term initiatives. One of the solutions, he said, was the construction of two desalination plants in St Peter and St Lucy.
Hoad, a farmer of more than four decades who has been harvesting rainwater for use on his Turners Hall farm, told Barbados TODAY in an interview this afternoon that he did not believe desalination was the answer. He insisted that rain water harvesting should be the primary initiative, saying it should be considered especially by farmers and hotel operators.
“People complaining that water going off every day. I don’t think we have had water for a whole day since I have been here in 1977. So I really don’t have anything original at this stage. I really want to get heavy into the use of rainwater,” said the St Andrew resident.
“What I am suggesting is rather than talking about desalination plants and what not, Government should be encouraging farmers especially to use rain water off their roofs for irrigation and for feeding their animals,” Hoad added, pointing out that farmers, especially those in animal husbandry, use a lot of water.
He argued that using rain water would take a lot of “pressure off the main supply”. He added: “Desalination, based on what I have read, is an expensive proposition, especially if you are getting into real sea water. The plant that is presently operating at Spring Garden is not desalination. It is brackish water that they are just taking out the residual salt that is there,” said Hoad, adding, “I don’t favour desalination.”
It is believed that only about 10 per cent of rain water is currently used.
Hoad said on his farm he was able to harvest about 6,000 gallons of water from every inch of rainfall. “When you study those big tanks that they have, it is like 600 gallons.
“You are talking about ten of them you are collecting with one inch of rain. You can get two or three inches of rain at a time,” he said. “So there is a lot of water available that is just not going back into the aquifers as it used to because they don’t clean the wells, as well as not making any efforts to stop it from going into the sea.”
Hoad also said the country could realize “obvious” savings from the use of rain water.
“The cost of pumping the water is a tremendous cost and if you can cut down on the amount of that, you obviously would save a lot if you think that people using water mainly for drinking and household use, compared to gardening and animals and everything else, including washing machines and whatever else, are big users of water,”
“Take hotels, for instance. Hotels have massive use of water with laundry, and they have big industrial washing machines. Think if they could tap the water off their roofs and use in the laundry and swimming pools and things like that, how much they could save!” added Hoad.