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EDITORIAL: BWA must minimise inconvenience

Barbados Nation

EDITORIAL: BWA must minimise inconvenience

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CLICHE THOUGH it may be, most reasonable people readily accept that to achieve progress, most often the beneficiaries must endure some inconvenience or discomfort.

In fact, in the traditional Barbadian setting, ordinary people understand this and will impose it on themselves, sometimes for years, knowing the good that will result. Many a Barbadian family will live “comfortable” in one or two rooms of their home in order to undertake expansion since temporarily renting an alternative residence is not an option.

The current state of affairs with the delivery of water services by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) can be viewed against such a background. There was a time when the BWA was regarded as one of the best-run public services – when you turned on the tap with a reasonable expectation that clean water would flow freely.

In some areas of higher elevation, and in some communities that were located close to sugar factories, outages were expected during the crop/dry season, but most households learnt to live with this.

More recently, however, outages and dribbling taps across the island have become the norm, perhaps with the exception of the tourist belt. It is now routine to hear on the radio a daily recitation of burst mains and affected districts that will engage the BWA’s crews that day.

Today, there is a significant portion of the population that has come to expect poor service from the BWA – and any organisation that finds itself in such a position ought to take stock as a matter of urgency. It is true that some of the inconvenience is being caused by the agency’s effort at a major mains-laying programme, but the public/community relations exercise that should accompany this is not nearly as sharp as it could be.

The BWA must do more to let Barbadians know where and when water services will be disrupted. When they publicise a shutdown and return of water, they must stick to it – or at least let consumers know when circumstances require a deviation.

But telling residents of a particular community the water will be off between specified hours alone is not enough. The authority must be able to so distribute its fleet of water tankers that inconvenience is kept to a minimum.

It is clear that so far some key people at the BWA do not clearly understand this point. There are communities that face chronic water outages even when mains are not being repaired or replaced, so residents do not receive water for storage when there are scheduled outages.

In all fairness to the BWA and its current management, the situation we now face was not caused by them, but has resulted from years of neglect and failure to maintain a sensible upgrading programme over the past quarter century.

Pipes age and deteriorate – they don’t last forever. Those responsible should know where they are located, how long they have been in place, the material from which they are made and consequently their life expectancy.

Waiting until pipes are so old that they burst every few weeks doesn’t point to an efficiently run utility or a Government that appreciates its role. We are now a quarter century late in some instances, compounding the potential for inconvenience.

All we ask now is that the BWA manages its affairs in a manner that would minimise this inconvenience to the consumer.