EDITORIAL: Greater need to conserve our water
IT?HAS OFTEN BEEN SAID that Barbados is a water scarce country and as such we need to efficiently manage our water resources. Our actions have not reflected this reality and we have paid little attention to effective water usage.
We therefore commend Minister of Agriculture, Food, Fisheries and Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick for his statements earlier this week: “The reality is that we must execute water harvesting, we must execute the reuse of treated water and . . . we must look now to augment our desalination capability.”
Other public officials before have spoken of precisely such concerns, but very little has happened.
Thankfully, we have not had a drought in recent years to devastate crops and livestock or even force consistent and widespread water outages. As with any dry spell, we have adopted the aged-old appeals to limit watering of lawns and washing of vehicles with a hose, to fully load washing machines before running them, and so on. When the rain comes, the aquifers are filled, the reservoirs are at adequate levels, and our old bad water usage habits become the norm again.
Perhaps because of bad habits, we have not seen the need to respond to our water situation in much the same way we have responded to our energy problems – and both are major challenges for Barbados. We have developed a strong solar hot water industry and we are on the threshold of developing a solar electricity industry, both fuelled by astronomical energy bills.
Given the importance of water to our very survival we need an adequate and consistent supply, but for some time we have been hearing about the defects in the water supply system. To take just one example: the Barbados Water Authority goes to the trouble to find water, clean it and pump it into water mains for delivery, but before it gets to any home or business, leaky pipes send a considerable quantity – perhaps millions of gallons – back into the ground.
Yes, we need to get the average Barbadian household to reduce water usage, while building codes should be updated to require that new buildings use less water and that all householders harvest the rainwater that falls on their land and roofs. The rainwater can be returned to the ground or properly stored. Our farmers must also be able to use and reuse water on a much greater scale than now occurs.
Inadequate water supply has existed in Barbados for a long time and will most likely become worse, given the increased demand for water and the increasing population and economic activities.
In the circumstances, we cannot rely on an outdated, disconnected system of managing surface and groundwater. Water conservation must be promoted on a grand scale.