One of this country’s main institutional sources of development funding is worried about the state of Barbados’ water and sanitation sector.
The Caribbean Development Bank this evening drew from a soon-to-be-published study on the water sector in the region, which revealed some daunting prospects for Barbados and the rest of CARICOM.
Addressing the official opening of the 22nd Annual Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre, President of the CDB, Dr. William Warren Smith said the study, which his institution commissioned in 2012, not only assessed the state of the sector, but also evaluated the role of regional institutions and funding agencies.
Smith said the draft final report was currently undergoing internal review.
He shared six key findings of that report.
“First, rainfall data for the last 40 decades point to a decline in freshwater availability. We note this trend, especially in the northern Caribbean, where the decline was by as much as 50 per cent in some countries,” disclosed the CDB president.
“Second, when we compared per capita consumption in the Caribbean with that of similar regions of the world, it was 50 per cent higher than expected. Third, unaccounted-for-water across this region ranged from 17 per cent to 66 per cent,” he added.
The head of the regional funding agency also said that the percentage of population with connected sewerage systems, varied from zero to 30 per cent, while access to piped water was less than 90 per cent in four countries.
Smith noted that the sixth key finding showed that in 10 of the utilities in Barbados and the 17 other CDB member-states, operational costs exceeded revenues being generated by the services provided.
“If we accept that water is a key driver of economic and social development, then we cannot afford to ignore the signals that these findings are sending. Clearly, effective water management must be almost at the top, if not at the top, of the list of development priorities for every country in our region,” he warned.
“Primary among these challenges, are inadequate tariff structures; inefficient water supply networks; and inadequate access in rural communities,” the bank executive pointed out.
Added to these challenges, he suggested, were inadequate wastewater management systems coverage; weak data management capacity for water resource management; high per capita usage; and a shortage of capacity, especially in the areas of planning and risk management.
In the feature address, Minister of Water Resources Management Dr. David Estwick told delegates that the modernisation initiatives of the Barbados Water Authority would prepare it to be regulated by the Fair Trading Commission “in the shortest possible time”.
Estwick said the BWA was committed to being regulated by the FTC considering that all the other local utilities were already regulated by the commission. The Caribbean Water and Wastewater Conference continues tomorrow at Hilton Barbados Resort. (EJ)