The technical definition to describe Barbados being a scarce country is – “ its lack of fresh water resources, … water availability of just 306 cubic meters per capita per year, [which] makes [Barbados] the 15th most water‐scarce nation in the world”. (Forbes 2019).
Many Barbadians struggle to understand why Barbados is considered a water scarce country with rain water allowed to gush into the sea to name one concern. The blogmaster understands from the engineers it is uneconomic to trap runoff water generated from seasonal rains.
In recent days two news items related to water availability piqued the interest. Manager of Water Resources and Environmental Management Alex Ifill confirmed the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) does not have the capacity to support any increase in agri-food production. He also warned that climate change will soon adversely affect farmers currently engaged in rainfed farming.
The other point worth discussing was raised by Minister Ryan Straughn while participating at an IMF forum last week. In a nutshell the plan by government appears to treat and convert dirty water to potable. The offshore revelation has triggered negative public commentary from Barbadians who have historically been proud to promote good water quality.
… so let me see if I understand. The BWA makes money from selling a commodity called water. The more water it can produce the more it can sell. So if there is a demand for this item, why doesn’t this entity increase the supply of water to its clients? We have the desal option, we have damming which can either be done privately or by the BWA. What is the volume of water for instance that runs into the ocean every year from lack of capture? How much water does the pond at Lears hold? How much does the Farmers pond hold? Why cant we identify the flow paths and dam those outflows to the sea, then treat the water from them and introduce that water into the local supply?
This response by the BWA is typical of why we are where we are. Its always the glass is half empty response here isn’t it?John A
Public concerns about government going in the direction of treated water is understandable against a background of deep mistrust in government. Let us agree successive governments have not executed simple projects well. The science of tertiary treatment process to convert ‘sewage water’ to potable although tested will never be trusted by locals. That Minister Straughn would blunder into asserting government’s plan in an offshore forum BEFORE having a national discussion is unsurprising. A good question to ask Minister Straughn and government is – what does it take to nurture public trust?
Barbadians (The Collective) are not entirely blameless. We wash our cars, power wash our homes, use potable water to flush toilets, refuse to get serious about replacing leaking mains, sell water to cruise ships to list a few ways water is mismanaged. However what is known, there is bountiful supply of sewerage water.
What is the plan, anyone?