It could be quite sometime before residents in the north of the island have access to a steady supply of potable water.
Acting General Manager of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) Dr John Mwansa said last night a combination of factors had conspired to block attempts to ease the water shortages in these communities.
Mwansa told a town hall meeting at the Edna Nicholls Centre in Boscobel, St Peter that the drought had affected the water supply in more ways than one.
He explained that the BWA had been forced to shut down the well at St Joseph Hospital – one of two servicing the north – because of rising salinity brought on by the drought.
“The well at St Joseph Hospital in Ashton Hall, St Peter and the well at Alleynedale, as well as the other wells that are on the west coast and 80 per cent of all the wells in Barbados rely on pumping water from water lanes that flow on top of salt water. Depending on the thickness of that freshwater lane, the saltwater content in those wells will rise.
“So for the St Joseph Hospital well the saltwater content began to rise from as early as October last year, and by November of that year, we had to take it out of production because the salinity level had passed the drinking water requirements. With the closure, the BWA lost 500 000 gallons of water supply per day which would have been piped to Boscobel and other northern districts,” the water company boss told the audience.
The closure of the St Joseph Hospital well left the BWA with only the Alleynedale well to service the northern districts.
And the situation is likely to get worse if the predicted rains do not come quickly, as wells at Carlton, St James; the Whim and Ashton Hall, St Peter and Trents, St James have all shown rising levels of salinity as a result of the drought.
The severity of the situation was emphasized yesterday, with the water company was forced to limit the output of these wells, the Acting General Manager revealed.
“Pumping at Ashton Hall, St Peter has been cut by half and today, [yesterday] we closed down production at Trents, St James because of the high salinity level. We at the BWA had to reduce pumping at the Whim by half. Under these circumstances we have to monitor the salinity levels.”
Mwansa added that the situation had been exacerbated with the large number of broken mains in the north, adding that while the coral limestone rock formation acted as a reservoir, it also concealed the leakages from the naked eye.