The management and safety of the region’s water supply is of major concern to officials.
And acting vice president of operations at the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Nigel Romano has issued a call to water managers to come up with innovative ways of protecting the sector and correcting a number of inefficiencies identified in a recent study.
Romano was addressing the opening of a two-day Regional Water Sector Assessment Workshop at the CDB yesterday.
Over the two days, stakeholders will discuss and validate the findings of a 2012 CBD commissioned assessment of the water sector in the region. They are also expected to come up with solutions to some of the challenges.
The study is expected to be made public over the coming weeks.
Giving an idea of some of the findings, Romano said over the last four decades fresh water availability had declined, especially in the northern Caribbean, as much as 50 per cent in some countries.
“Water losses from theft, leakage, et cetera, ranged from 17 per cent to 66 per cent in our borrowing member countries. Between 70 per cent and 100 per cent of people in the region are not connected to a centralised sewerage system. Less than 90 per cent of the people in four of our borrowing member countries have access to pipe water and in ten water utilities, operational costs exceed operational service revenues,” said Romano.
He said the impact of climate change on water resources in the region was of particular concern, adding that there was overwhelming evidence that the risks to water resources associated with the impact of climate change were significant, especially for small island developing states.
“Why is CDB concerned about the state of the water and sanitation sector? . . . . All of the key regional development challenges, including energy generation and usage, food security, natural disaster management and the preservation of the environment, are closely linked to effective water management. Therefore, CDB has a vested interest in the water and sanitation sector because it is key to the achievement of our development mandate,” he said.
He warned that if regional leaders accept that availability of water was a key driver of inclusive and sustainable economic and social development, then the findings of the study should not be ignored. He called for effective water managmenet to be a development priority.
“It is imperative that everyone in this region should have access to water and sanitation. Water managers must therefore lead the charge to find new and innovative approaches to address the formidable challenges facing the sector,” said Romano.
“Primary among these challenges are inadequate tariff structures, inadequate financing for capital works, inefficient water supply networks, inadequate access in rural communities, inadequate management systems for collecting, treating and safely disposing of waste water, weak data management capability for water resource management, high and increasing per capita usage coupled with a decline in resource availability, and a shortage of capacity in the region, especially in the areas of planning and preparing for the increased risks associated with climate change,” he outlined.