Cashman offers solutions to water outages

About half the water that is pumped into the distribution network never makes it to consumers’ homes, a water resource management expert has charged. And Director of the Centre for Resource Management and Environmental Studies (CERMES) Dr Adrian Cashman said the regular water outages experienced in various districts across the island can be resolved if the authorities control the amount the precious commodity that goes to waste daily.

Dr Adrian Cashman
Dr Adrian Cashman

“The Barbados Water Authority currently pumps about 30 million gallons per day of water into its distribution network but only just over half of that reaches the consumers . . . indeed, bringing non-revenue water (leaks and bursts) from the currently estimated 49 per cent to an industry best practice of less than ten per cent would not only solve the current supply problems but would also present significant cost savings in energy costs to the water utility in the long term,” Cashman concluded.

The university lecturer called for a comprehensive management plan to address the water woes, which include reuse and water harvesting, hinting that desalination was a costly option.

Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick recently announced plans to build two desalination plants as the long-term solution to the vexing water shortages.

But Cashman, who is also a senior lecturer of water resource management at the University of the West Indies Cave Hill Campus, said there were several other possibilities.

“The current water situation in Barbados is an opportunity to support long needed changes in how our water is managed. However, to achieve this we need a thorough understanding of the problems to be able to look for long-term sustainable solutions rather than short-term, costly fixes,” he argued.

He proposed the reuse of water from both the Bridgetown and south coast sewerage projects, noting that together they treat over four million gallons of water a day (MGD) which is discharged into the sea, and that there are plans for an additional four million gallons upon completion of the west coast project.

“That’s eight MGD of potentially available water that could be treated and re-used directly for non-potable purposes or indirectly reused by groundwater recharge,” the CERMES director suggested.

He also recommended incentives to homeowners and farmers to encourage them to harvest rainwater for secondary use and properly maintained “suckwells” in order to maximize groundwater recharge.

Cashman also argued that Barbados was at fault for its currents water shortages, having failed to heed several warnings, including predictions of a prolonged drought.

“There is not much we can do about the rainfall. The rainfall last year was about half of what we normally get. We were told it was going to be below normal, but was anything done about that warning? We are told that we should expect the below average rainfall situation to continue this year – we will be forced by circumstances to sit up and take notice. So we are going to have to get by with much less,” he cautioned.

The water resource management expert said a comprehensive integrated water resources management plan was urgently needed, stressing that national economic development should not be compromised by the lack of access to freshwater.

He said while such a plan would not provide immediate comfort to the people in the northern and eastern parishes who have been experiencing regular water outages, “if properly developed and implemented, we can at least ensure that they never again suffer the same level of inconvenience and indignity”.

9 Responses to Cashman offers solutions to water outages

  1. Janlyn Skeete
    Janlyn Skeete February 5, 2016 at 5:11 am

    We know this. Instead of a comprehensive maintenance program, the Barbados Water Authority has a policy of fixing leaks which are sometime undetected for years because they are underground. It can take weeks to get them to respond to a leak/burst pipe above ground.

    I hate to think of water being privatised but it is the only way I can think of making its distribution more efficient.

    • Warren H. Skeete
      Warren H. Skeete February 5, 2016 at 5:31 am

      With such a valuable resource, why does it take weeks to locate and repair? Privatization has its benefits, but at a seemingly higher cost.

  2. Tony Webster February 5, 2016 at 5:19 am

    “If properly developed and implemented “. Hmmm…. this intelligent, well-intentioned gentleman has evidently never experienced the process of managing a government department, or SOE, or Statutory Corporation in Barbados, such as the B.W.A.
    Particularly so, the BWA, which is yet to be placed under the remit of the Fair Trading Commisssion.

    The critical importance of “suck-wells” is long-known to early farmers and plantation-owners, who used to both create , and also to annually clean these, even when positioned in gullies and in non-arable locations…entirely for the national good.

    Former P.M. Owen Arthur deserves huge credit for re-envigorating the drainage unit , which rehabilited many non-functioning wells, and also instituted their regular cleaning, after many decades of post-independence neglect by the authorities. There is however one glaring mis-step in the programme: I have noted, by mine eyes, many wells which were capped by concrete covers, cast “in situ”, which now would have to be “mash-up and build-back”…in order to gain entry for maintenance!

    I hold my breath for a comment from the Relevant Minister of Water, Plasma…or whatever environmental flavour it is this week.
    Sorry, weak.

  3. Environmentalwatchman February 5, 2016 at 7:49 am

    According to Dr. Cashman about 50% of the approximately 30 million gallons pumped by BWA per day is lost as non-revenue water (leaks and bursts). The Minister has indicated that the BWA plans to build 2 more desal plants. That will mean 50% of that expensive desal water will be lost as “non-revenue water”.

  4. Harry February 5, 2016 at 7:59 am

    Rather than replace leaking pipes we built a $60m spanking new headquarters – with lights blazing at night when there is none at work – talk about putting the cart before the horse. But then again there might be “steal in dey” but “we know we like it so”.

  5. jrsmith February 5, 2016 at 12:26 pm

    There is technology , all around the organized developed world, which , if use by persons qualified, detects , any damage to under ground water, gas , or oil pipelines…. why the BWA management not using this technology,, whats the excuse, is the problem , mostly because of bad management and non professional experience engineers… My take , insuffient water storage capacity…

  6. Sam Pillie February 5, 2016 at 8:31 pm

    Look, I have no problems with the BWA building a new building so that they can be comfortable while managing our water, what I have a problem with is the installation of new meters and no water to meter. This money could have been spent better.

    First let me give you readers a little information about myself.

    1. I built and maintained a water plant here in Barbados in 1980 that produced the highest quality water (18 Mega-Ohms) that was ever produced in the Caribbean.

    2. I am a maintenance professional who worked in the hospitality industry for more than 20 years. (Only 5 star Hotels) I ALWAYS pay special attention to Sewerage Plants and Water.

    3. I worked with and maintain Bore-Holes pumping water from between 120 feet to 180 feet underground to provide water for a 480 room 5 star Hotel with several outlets and banqueting operations. I understand water very well and how to manage it.

    4. I maintained De-sal Plants in the Bahamas and several other areas as a maintenance professional.

    5. I got great results and my plants were ALWAYS operational and were only down for scheduled maintenance.(PM’s)

    I think that the meter money should have been spent designing, purchasing and installing “one million gallons” De-sal plants in the North, South and East. The East plant should serve St. Joseph, St. John, St. Philip, and St. George, the North plant should serve St. Lucy, St. Andrew, St. Peter and St. Thomas, while the South plant serve Christ Church, St. Michael and St. James. The key in maintaining these expensive plants is to have stand-by systems and trained technicians operating them.
    As far as De-Sal plants are concern, because the Total De-solved Solids (TDS) in sea-water is so high, it is important to have proper pre-filtration before the Membranes, so as to prolong their life.
    These membranes are very sensitive and expensive to replace, so to receive maximum life from these membranes, one must be sure not to allow unfiltered water to reach them.
    Each plant should have a million gallons storage tank with a 2 to 5 psi nitrogen blanketing the tank water, so as to prevent contamination of this water.

    I am sure that with new construction and the other demands for water, these plants would only work to 35% of their capacity satisfying all of Barbados water needs.

    Now, in order to manage and conserve what water we produce a few things must happen.

    A task Force should be formed to inspect the areas where we know there is wastage in water, like Hotels, Factories and Government Buildings including Schools. I can take you readers to any Hotel kitchen right now, and there would be leaking taps, and in their guest rooms there would be leaking toilet and so on.

    We don’t need outsiders to tell us how to manage our water because we have some strong engineers here in Barbados capable of surpassing and managing any challenges we have with water. We just have to use all of our local resources. We also have a proper engineer working with the BWA who worked in the Turks & Caicos Islands where only De-Sal water is used.

    Let’s get going BWA and show the world that we are professionals when there is a water crisis.

  7. Andy Phillip February 8, 2016 at 6:12 pm

    It’s all well that my colleague Adrian say the obvious and then the comments to follow just don’t repeat more along the path that should be taken. There are no excuses for politicians and managers of public agencies who fail to heed to the most obvious solutions to problems they were elected or appointed for. It is no good commending one former prime minister for some little good polish on a problem and name dropping another for the same lack of foresight and action. If you are pumping 30 MGD and the consumers are getting 15 MGD because of 49% non-revenue or unaccounted for water then can someone calculate how much it would cost to build treatment plants of 30MGD capacity(that’s what is required to deliver the additional 15 MGD already short since 49% will be pumped to waste!)
    We’ll compare this amount to the miniscule budget that BWA allocates annually to upgrading the distribution system and you will know which is more sexy to the politicians – past present or future! It is very simple for the economist accross the Caribbean to use Annualized Present Value and Cost-Benefit analysis to show that it’s by far the best option to spend on the upgrading of the aged and inefficient networks. CDB, World Bank, IDB and others are there pumping monies into these SEXY new Schemes all over while our poverty levels and economic strengths keep degrading compared to similar nations around the globe. The politicians are not performing because their employers defend them nicely on Election Day!

  8. Tony Waterman February 10, 2016 at 6:01 am

    @jrsmith!!! They built a 60ml Headquarters to sit in and Bill Customers for water they did not receive.
    some years ago a Canadian who visits Barbados Anually and who is in the water Business, sow that there was a problem and on investigation found out that the MAIN problem was what Dr.Cashman is now telling them, he mad an offer to the Government of the day, showing the how he could sole the mains problem by inserting a 15 7/8 Neoprene type main inside the existing 16″ Cast iron pipe, with little or no digging up of the roads (Similar to what is being done now, but quicker) the rejected the offer, that leaves us where we are now.
    we were much better off when we has 7th Standard Politicians.


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