Estwick: No water hike talks
The Democratic Labour Party (DLP) is not in talks to raise water rates, says the minister with responsibility for Water Resource Management, Dr David Estwick.
However, general manager Keithroy Halliday said the time may come when the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) has to approach the Fair Trading Commission since it has been absorbing cost in several areas.
The comments by the two came against the background of the problem-plagued sewerage system in the South Coast, which has led to waste water flowing into the streets and residents choking on its pungent smell.
Estwick, who is contesting the St Philip West seat in the May 24 elections, was speaking after he and other DLP members paid their deposits into the Treasury yesterday in order to qualify to run in the elections.
The crisis on the south coast has been going on for more than a year with technical staff fighting to find a way to eliminate the problem.
Estwick stressed that neither the minister nor the BWA determines whether there would be a hike.
“It is not determined by me. There was a time before, the Barbados Water Authority’s determination of its tariffs was set under the Barbados Water Act chapter 74A. what has happened is that we moved that and brought that under the Utilities Regulation Act chapter 2- 82 . . . and then brought that under the Fair Trading Commission Act chapter 340, 340c-d. And the FTC now has responsibility for tariffs setting as well as service setting.
He pointed out that more than 16 000 illegal connections were intensifying the stress on an already weakened south coast sewerage system, stating the agency intended to use all legal force to ensure compliance.
Meanwhile, Halliday said Barbados has experienced drought conditions for 12 of the last 20 years and he expected more in 2018 with the situation likely to worsen, since some of the island’s reservoirs are in dire need of repair and there is increased salinity in wells along the coast, primarily in the north.
“We know we will have some challenges this year as well. We have started to look at how we can make preparation for that,” Halliday said.
In 2015 and 2016 Barbados experienced severe drought conditions leading to outages mainly in the north and east with water rationing and community tank programme being introduced and more water tankers deployed as thousands were left displaced and disgruntled as taps ran dry.
Halliday said Barbados was at 98 per cent abstraction, but as rates declined and wells became more saline or eventually brackish, they would have to shift to desalination. He revealed three wells along the northern coastline had already been impacted.
The BWA boss said two desalination plants were being built at Hope, St Lucy, and Ealing Grove, Christ Church, and should be operational within the next 18 months to two years.
Halliday explained that the time was coming when they would need to apply for an increase since the BWA was absorbing some of the costs, like fuel. The last rate increase of 60 per cent was in 1999. (SAT/SDB)