Fixing the evil that is our water woes
We gone fix it fuh yuh! If the others couldn’t get it done for15 years, it will be fixed!
–– Minister of Agriculture, Fisheries and Water Resource Development Dr David Estwick at a January 13 Press conference.
We are definitely not into the blame game, but following last week’s issuance of a three-month prohibition order by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), we have been forced to revisit Dr Estwick’s recently announced water fix.
Indeed, the minister, at his January 13 Press conference, had created the impression problems with our water supply were mainly concentrated in the north of the island, where old leaky mains were contributing to the heightened frequency of water outages.
At that time, there was no mention of any ban on water usage, be it for domestic chores such as gardening, washing cars or the like; but what he did announce though were plans for the commissioning of the St Philip Water Augmentation Project, which, along with rehabilitation work well at Groves, St George, and a just completed new pumping station at The Lazeretto, was to be used to facilitate relief supplies to water-starved areas in St Peter and St Lucy.
To be fair to Dr Estwick, he did say it would take some time to ease some of the distress, which also faced residents in St Joseph and parts of St Thomas, even though he further reported that Government had acquired $80 million from the Caribbean Development Bank for the fixing of water mains; and that there would be the addition of eight water tankers to the BWA’s fleet, along with the installation of two packaged desalination plants over the next year or so.
At the same time, he announced a national “reuse policy”, which he said had already been approved by the infrastructure committee of Cabinet and, at first blush, looked to be a reasonable idea.
“For those persons who don’t use much water, we may have to create an incentive for them to do it; but for those who use their potable water from in the house to wash cars and wash down outside and flush toilets, it would be a savings to them because they would be paying less to the BWA and that would be a natural incentive,” said Estwick in outlining how such a plan would work.
“The important objective of that policy is to separate potable water usage from non-potable water usage, and it is designed to make sure that those persons who now have catchments of water on their property that the health services are saying could be contributing to vector development, that water can now be used productively around your homes and all within your homes to flush your toilets and so on,” the minister added.
Against this backdrop, it was a bit surprising for us to learn late last week that the BWA is now going a totally different route –– that of imposing a three-month ban under Section 14 (1) of the Barbados Water Authority (Water Services) Regulations, 1982. The prohibition, which goes into effect tomorrow, also bars people from filling or supplying tanks, ponds, baths or swimming pools other than dipping tanks for cattle, domestic baths not exceeding 120 litres in capacity, and elevated reserve tanks not exceeding 800 litres. The elevated tanks must be connected to household sewerage or water supply systems.
The washing of roadways, pavements, paths, garages, out-rooms and vehicles by hose is also forbidden.
“While this prohibition is in effect, no person shall use or cause or permit to be used, for any prohibited purpose, any water supplied by, or obtained from the pipes of the Barbados Water Authority,” the notice states.
It also warns the public that it is an offence to contravene the ban, the consequences of which is a fine of $500 or one month’s imprisonment on default of payment.
This begs the question: why so soon after the Estwick plan was announced, has the BWA rushed the route of a water ban? And why has the national conversation shifted so abruptly away from conservation methods to one of penalties?
Furthermore, who will police the water situation? Will the Royal Barbados Police Force, already stretched by the criminal element, really have time to be waiting in the wings in the hope of catching householders in the act of watering their gardens with hoses?
And what will be done in circumstances where the BWA itself is guilty of wasting water, as is usually the case where leaks are left unattended for weeks without end.
What about the very farmers whose survival Dr Estwick’s ministry is duty-bound to protect? What will happen if they can longer water their crops?
Is this a sick joke from the minister, who has been calling for more people to seek employment in agriculture; shouldn’t the said water preservation methods mentioned by the minister be given time to work?
We feel the water authorities urgently need to go back to the drawing board whilst Dr Estwick speedily moves to clarify his position.
Perhaps, he may want to start by telling us how serious a water problem we really have on our hands. And has the so-called “crisis”, which is currently being felt by residents in the north, spread to the rest of the island? If so, what can each of us do to help fix it.
Certainly, no prohibition ban will do at this stage, bearing in mind that Satan cannot correct sin.