EDITORIAL: BWA must address restriction concerns
THE SEVERE DROUGHT affecting the country has the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) with its back against the wall. The proof is in the institution of a three-month water prohibition order which starts tomorrow.
Most Barbadians will likely empathise with the directive, given the widespread suffering many residents have been facing because of lack of access to water for prolonged periods, even though the hardships in some instances had nothing to do with the lack of rainfall. A range of issues from ageing and leaking mains to an apparent lack of effective planning has plagued the water company.
But, given the existing realities, pointing fingers and laying blame will not achieve anything. We need urgent workable solutions to ensure water is readily available soon and in the long term, even during a prolonged drought.
The plans for building desalination plants will not happen overnight. The process is expensive and must also go through certain time-consuming stages, unless they are fast-tracked by the bureaucracy. Shifting water from one area to another will bring some ease but cannot be the effective long-term solution. The plans for the portable desalination plants may be the quickest solution, but even that is not permanent.
This is perhaps why the prohibition order is being enforced. But, the BWA needs to consider a number of factors in its drive to suppress demand for water, especially how it may negatively affect some livelihoods or even drive others to circumvent the order and defeat the efforts to reduce usage. Some situations have changed since the relevant regulations were instituted more than three decades ago.
Dr John Mwansa, the BWA general manager, has not indicated whether special appeals will have to be made by those businesses which must use large volumes of water for their survival, such as vehicle valet detailing and power-washing services. There needs to be clarity as to whether hotels’ swimming pools will be exempted. Also, will the country cease to sell water to cruise liners during the period of outdoor water-use restrictions? The horticultural sector, the cut-flower industry, small food crop and livestock farmers and even backyard gardeners with no access to spring or well water, will also need clear guidance. The BWA’s leadership must also ponder whether people already severely affected by a water shortage can be realistically expected to hold even more strain.
We wonder whether daily scheduled rationing would have been equally as affective as outdoor restrictions, as well as an increase in metered domestic rates for usage exceeding a specific amount.
Consumers have a responsibility to properly manage their water consumption, including following conservation measures. But, the BWA must deliver the water which the public expects even during a drought. Dr Mwansa must address the concerns.