MINISTER: DROUGHT AND DECAYING WATER MAINS CAUSING WATER PROBLEMS

Twenty fifteen was the driest year on record since the documentation of rainfall began in Barbados in 1942.

This declaration made by Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, during a press conference at his Ministry’s headquarters at Graeme Hall, Christ Church.

The Minister stated that a study conducted in 1979 revealed that Barbados had “almost fully exploited its renewable water resources“. He added that in 2006, the Food and Agriculture Organization reported that the renewable water resources of the island were almost fully exploited.

Outlining the issues that were currently affecting the water supply on the island, Dr. Estwick said that the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology had declared that drought conditions continue to affect the Caribbean due to severe El Niño and climate change. He noted that a number of islands throughout the region, including Trinidad and Tobago, Dominica, and St. Lucia, were currently rationing water.

Additionally, the Minister pointed out that data from the Met Office showed that Barbados has experienced unusually low rainfall over the past three years, significantly affecting the country’s renewable ground water resources. This, by extension, had affected the reservoirs’ capacity to maintain the continuous supply of potable water for all areas of the island.

“So during drought conditions like those we are presently experiencing, Barbadians are consuming more water than could be supported by the aquifers and reservoirs,” he explained.

Dr. Estwick further stated that the "aged and decaying" water mains, some of which are said to be over 120 years old, are causing approximately 40 to 60 per cent of water pumped to leak back out. He explained that "wells and reservoirs serving the north of the country have had a reduced pumping capacity of over two million gallons per day to St. Joseph, St. Thomas, St. Andrew and St. John".

Dr. Estwick further stated that the “aged and decaying” water mains, some of which are said to be over 120 years old, are causing approximately 40 to 60 per cent of water pumped to leak back out. He explained that “wells and reservoirs serving the north of the country have had a reduced pumping capacity of over two million gallons per day to St. Joseph, St. Thomas, St. Andrew and St. John“.

The Water Minister further pointed out that when the rain falls in the high elevations of the Scotland District, it runs into the sea.

The sea acts as a barrier to the fresh water, giving us a challenge to access it and pump it for potable water usage…. The lack of rain water creates a reduction in the fresh water column that sits on top of the salt water on the coast and that pushes back the sea water from intruding into the coastal wells”.

Because of this situation, during extreme drought, the BWA cannot continue to pump that reduced fresh water column from the coastal wells at the normal rate because once that fresh water is exhausted, salt water will intrude into the coastal wells and this will destroy Barbados’s potable water system permanently… During this drought situation, when residents find their taps intermittently dry, this is to preserve the fresh water in the well and to prevent sea water from destroying the fresh water wells in this country,” he indicated. (AR/BGIS)

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