EDITORIAL: Not just water but efficiency too
IF THE COUNTRY DOES NOT exit the current water crisis without a better system for the delivery of potable water to its citizens, we will be doomed to relive this nightmare over and over.
As we have said before, it is going to take a lot of arguing to persuade Barbadians that the prolonged shortage or absence of water in their taps is primarily the result of the drought the country is supposed to be experiencing. We have no reason to doubt the statistics of the Barbados Meteorological Services on rainfall, and clearly if we are taking more from the aquifers than is going in we will have problems.
But we are not convinced we are “taking” more. The Barbados Water Authority is yet to produce evidence to demonstrate that it has been able to make any meaningful dent in the amount of water being lost to leakage – which at various times has been estimated at between 30 per cent and 60 per cent of the total volume pumped into the distribution network.
We also note that one of the reasons for saddling the Treasury, and by extension the taxpayers and consumers with a multi-million dollar bill for metering every home and business in the country, was to ascertain once and for all the difference between what the authority pumps and what consumers receive in total.
Metering was also designed to reduce consumption and improve conservation by ensuring that everyone paid for what they used. There is no reason why the country should not have heard by now what are the precise amounts of water pumped each month, and exactly how much reaches consumers. For certain, we would know whether the major contributor to the crisis is the weather or the BWA.
In addition to the leaks from mains, which most likely spill millions of gallons for considerable periods before any evidence comes to the surface, all over this country Barbadians report broken surface pipes to the BWA, only to get less than satisfactory or efficient responses. In fact, it appears that unless a break presents some kind of spectacle that attracts cameras, the response from the authority could take weeks – even months.
In essence, the BWA is holding consumers to a much higher standard than it applies to its own affairs, and in the end it is those consumers who suffer for weeks as a result of dry taps, with the authority making the excuse that it’s the fault of low rainfall.
On its website, the authority states: “The BWA currently supplies approximately 35 million gallons of water per day to just over 100 000 customers. Its potable water supply network comprises two spring sources, 22 well sources (17 sheet water wells and five stream water wells), eight boreholes, 27 reservoirs and 14 re-pumping stations scattered across the island. The network is connected by over 2 000 miles of transmission and distribution mains.”
The task of supplying the country with quality drinking water is itself a mammoth one, and based on the above quote, the infrastructure used by the BWA in trying to fulfil its mandate is extensive. Anything less than the most effective system of management and a corps of leaders who are saturated with empathy for those they serve will make this a most difficult, if not impossible, undertaking.
The immediate job of the BWA is to get water to the suffering people of St Lucy, St Peter, St Andrew, St Thomas, St Joseph and St John. The immediate task of the Minister of Water Resource Management and the Government is to create a more efficient BWA that operates in a manner that gives it the moral authority to make demands of its consumers.