The entity responsible for supplying the island with potable water, as well as monitoring and protecting its water resources has amended its controversial ban on the use of potable water by residents and businesses.
The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) today relaxed the ban for a number of sectors, including agriculture, fisheries, restaurants, funeral homes, swimming pools and spas and commercial vehicle washes.
“The use of drip irrigation for agricultural crops is permitted,” the new guidelines for agriculture said. The same guidelines also instruct animal farmers to use hand-held hoses or pressure washers, rated at less than three gallons per minute, with an automatic shut off device to wash their surroundings.
The ban on the use of potable water for irrigation, watering of gardens, lawns and grounds, filling of tanks, ponds, baths or swimming pools, washing roadways, pavements, paths, garages and vehicles with hoses took effect on March 1 and was due to run through to May 31.
In announcing the prohibition, the state-owned water company stated it was forced to act due to one of the worst droughts in living memory.
It created a wave of uncertainty, particularly among businesses and industries that relied heavily on water.
While it has relaxed the embargo, the BWA is encouraging farmers to embrace rain water harvesting.
“Wherever possible, the use of non-potable water is encouraged for agricultural purposes; rain water harvesting is the desirable means of irrigating agricultural plots,” it said.
The state-run authority has also given the “green light” to commercial entities, such as fish markets, funeral homes, abattoirs and restaurants to use garden hoses and pressure washers that carry automatic cut off devices. Owners of public swimming pools and spas, which obtain water from the BWA network, can now refill them. However, they must first get permission from the authority and that approval will only be given if the water quality does not meet the requisite standards.
“Before the BWA grants permission an appropriate certificate must first be obtained from the Ministry of Health advising the owner that the water quality has failed to meet an acceptable standard of bathing,” the guideline states.
Owners of private or domestic swimming pools, spas or other recreational water appurtenances are prohibited from refilling them with potable water. Commercial vehicle wash outlets, or businesses that service, detail or repair vehicles or a dealership can also wash, but only with a garden hose or pressure water with a flow cut off device and with a certain rate of pressure. Non-commercial vehicle wash businesses must now deploy buckets or watering cans. The cleaning of building gutters, windows and other external parts can only be done by the use of buckets and mops/brush or a high-pressure low-volume cleaner.
“Otherwise, potable water must not be used to wash building exteriors unless cleaning is necessary as a result of an accident, fire, health hazard or other emergency. In these circumstances, the most water-efficient method of cleaning reasonably available, should be adopted,” the BWA advises.
There is also some relaxation with respect to use of water on roadways and for dust suppression. For example, in greenfields, once the water is legally obtained from the BWA network, a hose fitted with an automatic flow cut-off device or vehicle fitted with sprinklers can be used for dust or pollutant suppression or earth compaction.
The authority also emphasizes that in all other cases, potable water may be used for building and construction activities only where alternative water sources are not reasonably available or suitable. It however recommends that if in such cases potable water had to be used, a hose with a flow cut-off device must be fitted.
“Wherever practicable, non-potable water should be used to wash down roadways, driveways or construction materials.”
The Government-run BWA said it decided to relax the ban because it recognized that the prohibition regulations would cause some hardship to businesses which depend almost exclusively on water from the public system to operate. The water company however warned that the current measures were mandatory and enforceable by law, and any breaches could result in a fine of $500 or one month in jail.