A leading reseacher in hydrology is painting a bleak picture of available fresh water for Barbados in the coming years.
In a presentation to the 22nd Annual Caribbean Water And Wastewater Association Conference at Hilton Barbados Resort this morning, hydrologist with the Barbadian-based Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, Dr. Andy Ward, said the outlook was not good for this country, especially considering that between now and 2040, the island will have fallen behind in fresh water supply.
Ward said he was currently working on an integrated model which could inform policymakers and water management agencies, such as the Barbados Water Authority, as to how much groundwater would be available, particularly ahead of storms.
“So we have these different scenarios, and the ones that are applicable to this region are suggesting we look at what will be happening in 2040. We are going to be getting less rain; it’s already dry here; we are going to be getting more intense rainstorms. “So what happens when you have a normal rainstorm here is that a lot of it runs off,” pointed out the hydrologist.
“If you now have less water, but it comes at a higher rate, you will get more run-off. So in terms of the availability of water for the island, it doesn’t look good, because we are going to be getting a lot less recharge. Basically, that’s the water that moves down through the rock to the water table that we pump out,” he submitted.
He said the whole idea of his model was premised on the fact that less water would be available, and if the country wanted to develop, water being an essential component, one needed to know how much of the commodity was present and when it would be available.
“We are in the calibration stage where we are looking at how well the model works, and once we are comfortable that it can do what it is supposed to do, is when we will start making predictions,” Ward said.
In a separate interview with Barbados TODAY, the hydrologist revealed that the model was about six months away from being able to provide “real” numbers of groundwater availability and how much was available from different storm events and things of that nature.
“When I look around the island, every time the rain falls, the place is flooded and the water runs off and it heads for the coast, because of that nice slope. So, the first thing I did with the model, was to create an impoundment, put in these Class 5 wells, used in the US by the EPA to get rid of excess water and see what it does; and sure enough [the rainwater moves down into the ground and it spreads out] there is no run-off and basically eventually moves through the rock into the aquifer,” stated the researcher in reference to capturing water and preventing flooding.
Ward also suggested that there was no need to fear pesticides contaminating the groundwater if this form of water harvesting was used.
“Of course, they will be there and if there are really heavy loads, it would be a problem. It the water passes through a crack, rather than slowly through the filters, so to speak, there will be a problem. So you would have to pick the ideal location on the island, do a geophysical survey to make sure there are no fractures and that it has the characteristics you need.”
Ward argued that the placing of the special wells to inject water into the aquifer was done all over the world, and he could not understand why Barbados was allowing hundreds of millions of gallons of water to run into the ocean, “when we are saying that we are water-scarce”.
He recommended that about 179 gallons of water per day could be injected into the subsurface, especially in areas such as Speightstown, where it always floods, and become accessible to the BWA.
Ward also thought that importation of water could be considered. While emphasizing that such a proposal would not be economically feasible, BWA acting general manager Bwalya Mwansa agreed with Ward that there was a need to optimize the island’s water resources development and management practices to get the best out of what was available.
“And so, what they are developing is a tool, a computerized tool, that can be utilized to help do that management. Because, when you have the computerized tools to use, why do it manually?” declared the acting general manager.
He was pleased to see the Caribbean Meteorological Institute involved in developing such a system, “because, once they provide the tools to the Water Authority . . . it makes it possible for those resources to be more efficiently managed. So, we look forward to the completion of what they are doing and the utilization of the model and the outputs.” (EJ)