RON IN COMMON: Preparing for water crisis
IT IS ONE THING TO HEAR of the hardships caused by no running water to actually experiencing them.
No water to wash your face, no water to flush the toilet, no water to wash up the dirty dishes and struggling to get water to wash some clothes.
And on top of everything, health officials are constantly reminding us to wash our hands often to avoid all kinds of diseases.
The plight of people in many districts across Barbados not having an efficient water supply has been highlighted consistently for a number of years, and the truth little note was taken of these people. Article continues below.
The reality is that poor water services date back a very long time.
Listening to the politicians, their cronies and some on the radio call-in programmes will either evoke a smile or give you a headache.
The reality is that we have not prepared ourselves for any pending water crisis. It has been a back-burner issue, except for the water mains replacement programme.
We need solutions, and solutions which must go beyond pumping water to affected areas or those which are engineering generated.
The Town Planning Department must be more proactive and speak publicly on its role and recommendations. The climatologists, hydrologists, microbiologists, water conservation experts and the behaviour change communications specialists must be involved in any initiative to resolve the problem.
And indeed all those experts with the knowledge need to stop staying in the background and only speaking in whispers on the cocktail circuit while criticising anyone who dares to speak but might not grasp all the issues.
The Fair Trading Commission must be on board, as must be the agricultural industry, the business community and the tourism sector in development a viable and meaningful solution.
The BWU must stop condoning and turning their heads to the wrongs amongst workers; late to the job, poor work attitudes and low productivity. The time has also come when there can be no special rights for BWA workers as the only ones who should lay or repair mains whether in private developments or on the public roadways. The public simply needs the most efficient approach and the best results.
The financial status of the BWA must be made public. Is it a financially strong and viable business or one tottering on bankruptcy?
This must be all part of the efforts to make the BWA more transparent and accountable. Its Board must understand its governance role, audit and compliance requirements. The Board must deal with the strategic issues and holds its management accountable for the required operational targets. There must be total transparency in the tendering process and the use of all third parties services.
In the meantime, all Barbadians must play their part by installing water saving devices and water tanks as a first step. Food crop farmers need to use more drip irrigation and other systems successfully applied in arid countries with a booming agricultural sector. The high levels of water wastage in the fish markets must be stopped, while those in the manufacturing sector using large volumes of water must find ways to re-cycle and re-use this precious commodity.
The hotels and restaurant must ensure they have adequate back up water supplies to meet all their requirements if they are to deliver the best possible services to their customers who are not interested in excuses. The same thing applies to other areas of the commercial sector so as to halt unnecessary interruptions in their operations because of a water outage.
The water problems have also highlighted the deficiencies in the schools, some of which are disaster emergency shelters. The schools must have functioning water tanks allowing a supply of water for drinking and sanitary purposes to ensure their operations are uninterrupted.
We cannot make light of El Nino, nor can we dismiss the below average rainfall and the resultant drought across the entire region resulting in shut-offs in many countries from Cuba, Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda to St Kitts-Nevis, St Lucia and even Guyana. Nor should we dismiss the plight many farmers face. But the truth is that most Bajans primary concern is about their dry taps. They want the high water stress situation in Barbados to be better managed.
So this is where those with key management and leadership skills must be heard, since at the end of it all we have to face the reality that water can and will be made available, but at a price. Free or cheap water is going to be a thing of yesteryear.
That is why the discussion about the desalinization plants must begin. Not only whether sea water is better than brackish water, but what will be the energy requirements and associated costs. And can we use green energy in such undertakings. The issue of whether one or two big financiers should put up the money or whether this is an ideal opportunity for small investors to have a new vehicle should also be indicated.
So the proposition must be about solutions in an effort to reach a permanent fix for a national problem. It must involve all Barbadians, and getting involved in a meaningful way.