Suriname’s solution

Auke Piek, a 44-year-old Dutch engineer, says he has a solution to the Caribbean’s worst drought in half a century –– and it lies hundreds of miles away in the tropical rain forests of Suriname.

This week, a boat will tow a giant bag made from PVC-coated fabric with enough water to fill an Olympic-size swimming pool from Suriname to drought-stricken Barbados and Curacao. It will be a test run for a technology Piek said he wants to expand to other Caribbean islands, and, eventually, as far afield as the Middle East.

“Water is our blue gold,” said Erlyn Power, Suriname representative for Piek’s company, Amazone Resources. “I visit islands where people are having their water turned off and here we have so much of it that it’s just flowing into the sea.”

Fabric bags carrying river water drag behind a boat.
Fabric bags carrying river water drag behind a boat.

The drought that started early last year in the Caribbean shrank reservoirs across the region, forcing utilities from Trinidad and Tobago to Jamaica to ration water. For some islands, such as Cuba, it was the worst drought in more than 100 years. And this may just be the start.

The Barbados Water Authority, which signed a memorandum of understanding for the test run but is not buying the initial shipment, said in a statement that the accord it part of its long-term plans to tackle the impact of global warming.

Amazone has received the rights from Suriname’s government to pump water from the mouths of the Coppename and Suriname rivers, both of which meet World Health Organization standards, the company said. On Tuesday, the bag was being filled in the Suriname River, Piek said at a ceremony. The trip to Barbados was expected to take five or six days.

If the test run is successful, the company will order bigger bags, costing more than US$500,000 (BDS$1 million) each and capable of holding 16 times more water. The bags, which can be tethered together and pulled behind a boat, float near the ocean’s surface due to the difference in density between fresh and salt water.

“Drought is hitting these countries more and more. In Barbados, some people only have water for a few hours a day,” said John Goedschalk, executive director of environmental group Conservation International’s Suriname office. “Is this the solution? I think we’d be a fool not to at least try it.”

Still, moving fresh water around the globe to dry regions has been proposed before, including plans to tow icebergs from the Arctic to Africa, but mostly without success. Even versions of the bags Amazone is using date back decades, with failed proposals to use them to deliver water to southern California, Israel and the Gaza Strip, and Northern Cyprus.

Part of the difficulty is the question of control of water rights, said David Zetland, a professor at Leiden University College in the Netherlands who wrote Living with Water Scarcity.

“The problem with water is that it’s not managed through market mechanisms,” Zetland said. “It’s managed through the political process. Water is subject to uncertainty because some politician can come along and say ‘I’m just not going to do it this way’.”

Piek and private investors have spent around US$2 million (BDS$4 million)  developing Amazone and plan to raise as much as US$60 million (BDS$120 million) next year when it wants to start making regular deliveries.

Although he declined to provide pricing and costs, Piek said it is cheaper than the desalination and water treatment plants governments in the Caribbean are considering building.

The Suriname government, which is trying to diversify a US$4.9 billion (BDS$9.8 million) economy that is forecast to contract this year, according to the International Monetary Fund, would make royalties off the water sales.

“We have a nearly unlimited source of fresh water in Suriname and at the same time the world’s population is growing and more people will be in need of fresh water,” Piek said. “And here, the water is just flowing into the sea.”

13 Responses to Suriname’s solution

  1. Michael Goodman
    Michael Goodman November 24, 2016 at 10:10 am

    If the plan works, each shipment of water will cost $1m. How much does a desalination plant cost?

    I am reminded of the famous saying “Give a man a fish and he will eat for a day. Teach a man to fish and he will eat for a lifetime “

  2. Ashlee Bedford
    Ashlee Bedford November 24, 2016 at 10:25 am

    Um who do they expect to drink that brown dirty water ?

    • Cherylann Bourne-Hayes
      Cherylann Bourne-Hayes November 24, 2016 at 3:18 pm

      A water treatment facility cleans the water before it is pumped into your home.
      Waste water treatment facilities treat waste water (sewage) then releases it to rivers, streams, and other bodies of water. The water you drink is simply recycled water.

  3. Deva-Alexandra DeBeauvois
    Deva-Alexandra DeBeauvois November 24, 2016 at 10:44 am

    I thought they said this wasn’t true…lies, LIES and more LIES!

  4. jrsmith November 24, 2016 at 12:07 pm

    The region is displaying we are just a bunch of ignorant black people , how could islands with rivers allow their island to suffer water problems, and import dirty water…..
    This is dangerous what water and earth diseases are we importing into barbados ,which could destroy our agriculture and make our people very ill , this should be stopped right now… bringing this water here , we need to ask Westminster is they send a team to run Barbados…
    The friends and family and party faithful politics and government never really worked thats why we are where we are….
    Who is more danger to our bajans the politicians or the guns….

  5. Tony Waterman November 24, 2016 at 3:46 pm

    @ Deva-Alexandra DeBeauvois!!!!You said”I thought they said this wasn’t true…lies, LIES and more LIES!” will you please READ and COMPREHEND what you read before you comment? and if at all Possible PPLLLEEEASE take the Politics out of this VERY serious conversation, as Life as we now know it is in the balance over this water issue all over the World.
    This Bunch and the Other Bunch are not my Favourites, but they Have NEVER said that this was not true, how could they have said it was NOT true, when they have Publicly ADMITTED to signing an “MOU” with this Company ??
    What they did say was that they werte NOT purchasing THIS inaugural shipment of Water as it is the Company “Amazone Resources” that is making this run to ascertain how feasible this PARTICULAR plan would be, before making it a COMMERCIAL Enterprise.

  6. James Austin Bynoe
    James Austin Bynoe November 24, 2016 at 4:49 pm

    Now we are buying water … smh … free education is “unsustainable they say” but buying water for millions each year somehow is … smh “total folly in our 50th year”

  7. Greengiant November 24, 2016 at 5:35 pm

    Thanks brother Waterman this was mentioned in the media earlier, but some commentators here are so politically influenced in their comments they don’t see anything practical anymore.

    The statement also says this water meets WHO standards, the real problem is that there has been housing expansion throughout the country over the years comprising of lower, middle, and high end development even luxury residences with golf courses. So there was continued increase in demand, no new water sources and old infrastructure. Now yes this administration has not made the better decisions, but the previous one did most of the developments with no addressing of water capacity or infrastructure. Let’s all be realistic if we make poor decisions within our family structure, if we die then our spouses or or older children would have to address the issues of importance with less revenue though as we would have died. In a country lack of priority spending can create serious problems later. So brother Clyde Mascol, and other Jepter Ince need to bring the facts to the people and remove the political sugar coatings currently being used.

  8. Tony Waterman November 24, 2016 at 6:09 pm

    @jrsmith!!!! Where is the Agriculture that will be Destroyed, do you know something that i don’t know??

    Desalination Plants Built and Sold by International Corporations, are not that much better, as they CAN”T remove ALL of the SALT from the water, so how long will it be before there is a HUGE rise in HYPERTENSION and other Arterial problems in the Population due to the buildup of this SALT in their Systems??? in this scenario, this water would only have to go through a Water Treatment system before being Pumped into the Resevoirs.
    Here in Canada, in Ottawa, the water is Taken from the Ottawa River bedore being Treated and sent to the pumping Station, that water is often Contaminated with so much “FECAL COLIFORM” that the Beaches are closed for swimming, in Montreal, the drinking Water is Taken from The “St.lawrence River, just recently Millions of Gallons of RAW SEWERAGE was released into that River to enable them to do work on the Treatment Plant, it was so much that millions of fish downstream Died and floated ashore, still water was taken from that River to be treated for Drinking.
    I can’t see this enterprise any worse than those two International examples i just mentioned, and so i will put your take on this Locl (Caribbean) Venture as FEARMONGERING.

    Is that the same Westminister that Tossed us Under the Bus on Nov.30th 1966, you want to go back to them on your Knees “BEGGING”??? you have no Shame.

  9. Tony Waterman November 24, 2016 at 6:17 pm

    @James Austin Bynoe!!!! Free Education is NOT a Sustainer of Life, Water Is “THE” sustainer of LIFE.

    “The amount of water in the human body ranges from 50-75%. The average adult human body is 50-65% water, averaging around 57-60%. The percentage of water in infants is much higher, typically around 75-78% water, dropping to 65% by one year of age.”

    “Babies and children have the highest percentage of water.
    Adult men contain the next highest level of water.
    Adult women contain a lower percentage of water than babies or men.”

    Water serves multiple purposes:

    Water is the primary building block of cells.
    It acts as an insulator, regulating internal body temperature. This is partly because water has a high specific heat, plus the body uses perspiration and respiration to regulate temperature.
    Water is needed to metabolize proteins and carbohydrates used as food. It is the primary component of saliva, used to digest carbohydrates and aid in swallowing food.
    The compound lubricates joints.
    Water insulates the brain, spinal cord, organs, and fetus. It acts as a shock absorber.
    Water is used to flush waste and toxins from the body via urine.

    as you can see Education does Asolutely NOTHING to SUSTAIN Life, but WATER is an ABSOLUTE NECESSITY to SUSTAIN LIFE, so in fact it is NOT a total folly as you have suggested.

  10. Michael Turton
    Michael Turton November 24, 2016 at 6:39 pm

    The Lord gives us plenty of water but we do not know what to do with it. Time to harness our rainfall the sea don’t want it……….

  11. Heather Cole
    Heather Cole November 24, 2016 at 7:22 pm

    There is no water treatment plant in Barbados. How will the water in this trial or any future shipment be treated or even stored?

  12. Pam Fazio
    Pam Fazio November 24, 2016 at 7:31 pm

    And yet I read in the past this was not happening in Bim. Guess what here it is!


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