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THE ISSUE: Harder times are yet to come

SHAWN CUMBERBATCH, [email protected]

THE ISSUE: Harder times are yet to come

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BARBADOS’ RECENT WATER WOES woes are widely known. From last year up to now people living in rural areas, including St Joseph, have been hard hit by water shortages.

The authorities have been under pressure to find solutions at a time when there is a severe drought and low rainfall.

This is not the first time Barbados has faced such challenges, and it is not likely to be the last. Research shows that Barbados experienced a severe water shortage in 1994 and 1995 when the so-called “one in 50 years” drought caused more than 3 000 households to be without water for significant periods.

Barbados has been described as a water scarce country. Hydrologists define water scarcity by looking at the population-water equation.

The experts say a location is experiencing water stress when annual water supplies drop below 1 700 cubic metres per person. Also, when annual water supplies drop below 1 000 cubic metres per person, the population faces water scarcity, and below 500 cubic metres means “absolute scarcity”.

At the turn of the century, studies concluded that the annual renewable freshwater resources in Barbados were about 225 410 cubic metres. Further calculations found that given Barbados’ population size each individual would have annual water supplies of about 316.44 cubic metres. This suggested the island could face absolute water scarcity if action was not taken.

Also, in 2007 online information resource EarthTrends said Barbados annual renewable freshwater resources were about 295.2 cubic metres per person per year which suggests there is absolute scarcity.

In a study entitled Management Of Water Demand In The Caribbean Region: Current Practices And Future Needs, Edwin Ekwue of the Faculty of Engineering, The University of the West Indies, St Augustine Campus said Barbados and Antigua and Barbuda were the Caribbean countries facing “major water stress”.

In terms of what Barbados is doing to fix the problem (which has arguably reached crisis stage), Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick has said a major part of the plan is the construction of additional desalination plants.

He thinks desalination is the best long term solution. This is considering that Barbados, like other Caribbean countries, is expected to face drought conditions for years to come. Climate change will also have an impact.