EDITORIAL: It’s time we probe BWA’s management
We really do not wish to appear to be beating up on the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) when it is down, but it is very hard not to see the authority as inviting intense scrutiny by its actions and the recent words of its acting general manager.
And while it is only fair to join the residents of rural Barbados in expressing thanks for the return of running water over the weekend after several weeks without a reliable supply – or no supply at all – we cannot help but ask whether those responsible for the distribution of water to the country truly understand what is taking place.
When Dr John Mwanza finally found time to address the country on what was nothing short of a national embarrassment caused by his agency’s failure to supply water to residents in a major slice of the island, stretching from St Lucy to St Philip, but with St Joseph being particularly hard hit, he said nothing the average Barbadian did not already know.
We have been hearing for the last quarter-century about global warming and that Barbados is a water-scarce country and how we must conserve water. After all, that’s why for nearly two decades now the Town and Country Development Planning Office has been mandating water tanks for all new buildings, including homes.
Dr Mwanza also said the problem was caused partly by frequent breaks in the aged and deteriorating mains across the country. Again, there’s nothing new there. That’s why the country has been spending tens of millions of dollars on a mains replacement programme.
What he did not explain, as far as we are aware, was what caused almost a month of dry taps in recent weeks. What was peculiar during this period? After all, we did not become water-scare last month and the pipes did not suddenly start leaking around the same time.
But if we accept the explanations of the BWA boss, which appear almost as porous as the agency’s water mains, then we have an even bigger problem understanding the challenges of recent times. That’s because all across the affected areas, residents reported, running water returned around 2:45 a.m. on Saturday and continued until well after sunrise, when there was an interruption of just over an hour. However, taps have been delivering since then, albeit with low pressure in some areas.
So, has the BWA been able to eliminate the impact of global warming? Are we suddenly no more a water-scarce country? Have the mains been all patched or replaced since Dr Mwanza’s Press conference late last week?
What we are really asking is: What has happened since that Press conference that was not available to the BWA’s experts to do before? The return of water to rural taps can only lead to a further erosion of confidence in the management of the BWA. Surely something is wrong with the management of our water distribution system.
Just last week we were told by a prominent member of our society that after suffering the misery of no running water for over a week, he called the BWA and was told the water in the reservoir serving his area was very low. He decided to drive to the facility and check for himself, only to find BWA employees working on non-functioning water pumps, while the reservoir level was above normal.
He, like us, questioned whether those who are managing the system, and who should be reporting with confidence to customers, were really on top of the situation. We believe it is time for an independent enquiry into the management and operation of the Barbados Water Authority, and we believe Government should solicit the involvement of the business community, the trade unions and the engineering fraternity to facilitate this.
Nothing less will do after the BWA’s bungling of late.