Barbados is expected to benefit from more than $1 billion in investment to boost its water and wastewater management and infrastructure over the next couple of years.
The revelation came this morning from Minister of Water Resource Management Dr David Estwick while addressing the signing ceremony of a US$58 million agreement with the Canadian government, through the Canadian Commercial Corporation, to modernize the institutional setting of the water and sanitation sector and improve the efficiency of its operations.
Speaking during the event at the Canadian High Commission on Bishop’s Court Hill, Estwick said the agreement represented only a portion of that total amount which the Canadians would be asked to invest.
The contract, which was signed today between chairman of the Barbados Water Authority, Dr Atlee Brathwaite, and regional director of business development for Central America and the Caribbean at the CCC, Luc Allary, would allow for the roll-out of almost 100,000 smart water meters across the island, and provide customers with an improved system to monitor water consumption, and supply them with better information on consumption and what they are billed for.
“The overall project [under the agreement] I think is US$58 million in this particularly project. I have got the clearance from Cabinet to engage the Canadian government to develop the water and wastewater management infrastructure, to the tune of $248 million and that does not include the cost for the West Coast sewage project, which we are now working out . . . the financial package, and detailing out the final design package that is necessary,” the minister disclosed.
“And, so when we combine those two,” he suggested, “in relation to working with the Canadian government, we’ll be talking probably well over $1 billion in investment. For me, that is what your development partners help you do. Invest in your infrastructure, to make it better, on behalf of your people.”
Estwick noted that Barbados was only building on the long-standing relation it had enjoyed over the years with the Canadian government.
The Cabinet minister pointed out that the BWA had been struggling to deal with revenue losses for sometime now due to significant leakage from mains and the fact that between 20,000 and 30,000 meters have either been disfunctional or have stopped.
“The old technology created a condition where, after five or seven years, water meters become dysfunctional. So you can imagine the Water Authority struggling, losing about 40 per cent of the water that it pumps down into the ground and at the same time, about 20,000 meters not working,” he asserted.
He said it therefore became important to look for a solution with the highest technology that would provide Barbados with the type of metering system which would be very efficient.
“. . . That would not only allow for the Barbados Water Authority to determine dysfunction of meters much more readily, but they would also be able to determine leaks much more readily, it would also be able to enhance revenue capacity of the Barbados Water Authority in significant ways,” stated Estwick.
“What is also important in this regard is that those persons who suffered in the past of having a bill for $30 this month and then next month it is $3,000 –– some sort of erratic billing arrangement –– those would become challenges of the past, with this new smart meter capability,” declared the Minister of Water Resources Management.
In addition to that, he noted, the fact that the meters do not have any moving parts, but essentially sends out a radio signal, it would enhance not only the reading capacity of systems within the BWA, “because, coming along with this particular project, we would be putting in a number of internal upgrades”.
He said these included a new customer service information system, financial management system and a work management mechanism.
Canadian High Commissioner Richard Hanley told those attending the ceremony he was impressed by Estwick’s recent pronouncement that a number of projects being carried out by the BWA were aimed at improving water resource management and the sustainable water and wastewater service provision by the authority.
Hanley’s commendation was also based on chairman Brathwaite’s comments that while Barbados was a leading in wastewater management and supply in the region, it could not rest on its laurels.
“I am particularly impressed with this type of leadership demonstrated by Minister Estwick and chairman Brathwaite in advancing this complex, yet strategic project,” declared the Canadian diplomat.