“We will fix it for you!”
That is the promise from Minister of Agriculture Dr David Estwick to residents in the north of the island who have been forced to deal with severe water shortages in recent weeks.
In a press conference this morning at his ministry’s Graeme Hall, Christ Church headquarters, an animated Dr Estwick outlined short-term, medium-term and long-term initiatives aimed at helping to alleviate the water woes experienced by residents in St Lucy, St Peter, St Andrew, St Joseph, St Thomas and St John.
However, before doing so, he insisted that the entire Caribbean was currently experiencing drought conditions and sought to distance both his ministry as well as the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) from any blame as it related to the water shortages.
Dr Estwick revealed that several islands, including Trinidad and Tobago, St Vincent, St Lucia and Dominica, had moved to ration water due to the drought conditions caused by a severe El Nino and climate change, as declared by the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology.
“These conditions are national in nature and are not of any of the Government’s making in the Caribbean . . . a change to this reality requires divine intervention, not a governmental one,” he said.
With General Manager of the BWA John Mwansa listening attentively, the Minister revealed the St Philip Water Augmentation project, the addition of eight water tankers to the BWA’s current fleet and the installation of two packaged desalination plants would help to ease some of the distress currently being experienced by those residents.
“We have now developed the St Philip Water Augmentation Project that will be commissioned next week Wednesday, because we are putting in an additional 3.5 million gallons of water per day and we will use some of that water and send it to Bowmanston [St John] and then let it also feed down into St Joseph. . .” Dr Estwick said.
He said Government had recently acquired an $80 million loan from the Caribbean Development Bank [CDB] and the money would be used to install water mains to help in the delivery of water to those affected areas.
In fact, Dr Estwick revealed work had already begun.
“The CDB loan will be used to construct a new water main between Golden Ridge [St John] and Castle Grant [St Joseph]. And as I speak now, drilling is going into one of the concavities in the Sweet Vale basin and has found over 160 feet of fresh water, which will allow for an extraction of an additional million gallons a day and a new water main will be built straight from the Sweet Vale basin directly to Castle Grant.
“We gine fix it for yah! If the others couldn’t get it done for 15 years, it will be fixed!” he exclaimed.
However, Dr Estwick maintained that the only solution to the island’s current water crisis was the construction of two desalination plants.
He said using his powers as Minister of Agriculture, he had already directed the BWA’s board to meet and approve the project.
“I have utilized in the national interest . . . my authority to give an instruction of a general or specific nature, and I have given an instruction of a specific nature that the board shall meet and the board shall approve the construction of two new desalination plants in Barbados, each of six million gallons per day as a medium to long term solution,” the Minister disclosed.
The plants, which will use strictly seawater, are expected to be built in St Peter and St Lucy and will take between 18 to 24 months to construct said Mwansa.
Dr Estwick said the BWA was also presently rehabilitating a well at Groves, St George which would provide an additional 500,000 gallons of water to the Golden Ridge – Castle Grant system, and had just completed a new pumping station at the Lazaretto, which would allow desalinated water to be pushed down the West Coast and into the St Peter and St Lucy systems.
While admitting the situation was an ‘unfortunate’ one, the Minister said the BWA could not run the risk of allowing salt water to intrude into the island’s coastal wells.
“During extreme drought, the BWA cannot continue to pump that reduced fresh water column from the coastal wells at the normal rate because once that fresh water is exhausted, salt water will intrude into the coastal wells and this will destroy Barbados’ potable water system permanently.
“So during this drought situation when residents find their taps intermittently dry, this is to preserve the fresh water in the well and to prevent sea water from destroying the fresh water wells in this country,” Estwick contended.