EDITORIAL: Seek outside help with water issues
BARBADIANS ONCE BOASTED of a guaranteed safe supply of drinking water to almost every district around the clock. But the water problems many rural districts have been experiencing have certainly stopped the flow of any bragging, as too many households are crying out because of dry taps. And it is obvious the public’s tolerance level is running low on this national problem.
Several factors are impacting on the island’s water shortage. A significant amount of rainfall washes into the sea, while it is widely acknowledged by Barbados Water Authority (BWA) officials that there is a serious leakage problem, given the age of some of the mains and the additional challenges the Scotland District poses as a result of the land slippage problems there.
We believe this country can make great strides in being more efficient in its water usage, but that alone will not provide the solutions, since improving lifestyles, expanding hotel plant, expanding agriculture and aquaculture will all add up to a greater demand for water.
Even if there is average rainfall recorded annually for the next few years, it is hardly likely this will provide the solution. The situation calls for measured and well-thought-out plans that will need the support of all Barbadians to ensure their success.
The BWA needs to consider external help, and Government should use its diplomatic channels to reach out for assistance. We suggest that it turn to Israel, which has many similarities to Barbados when it comes to water. The difference is that the Israelis have acted, and done so quickly, allowing them to overcome significant shortages. Today the Israelis can meet their water demands, whether for household, agricultural or commercial uses.
Like the Israelis, we must perfect the art of recycling and reusing waste water, a high volume of it, particularly for agriculture. At the same time we should use technology that would allow for the close monitoring of the water supply network to alert the authorities to any leakage. This would facilitate immediate repair and a reduction in the amount of water being lost.
Desalination is a clear option that will be pursued, but must be environmentally friendly. We should also tap into the techniques used by the Israelis that provide for removal of the salt from sea water at low cost. These are areas ripe for public-private sector joint ventures and offer new business opportunities while fulfilling a national need.
Our water requirements must meet long-term demands in light of an increasing population, the continued growth of the tourism sector and the expectations of industry and agriculture. The aim must of necessity be to adequately meet fresh water supply needs for another 40 years. The BWA must permanently change the way it manages this island’s water resources.