President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) Dr Warren Smith has proposed regulatory reforms in the water sector, similar to those in the electricity sector, as one way of addressing the water scarcity facing Barbados and several other Caribbean countries.
But he cautioned that consumers could be asked to pay a higher price for the commodity as a result.
Delivering the Fair Trading Commission’s annual lecture on the topic Regulating Utilities in Small Island Developing States – Lessons for the Caribbean, Smith said the reforms should include the establishment of appropriate policy and regulatory frameworks to encourage private investment in new water harvesting and production technologies, including desalination, and changing consumption patterns.
He also suggested that Caribbean countries examine the feasibility of using grey water – gently used water from bathroom sinks, showers, tubs, washing machines, etc – for agriculture.
“At present, this type of framework is generally absent in Caribbean countries where there is also significant under-investment in the water sector,” Smith told the audience.
Noting that the Caribbean’s high levels of water scarcity are further exacerbated by the impacts of climate change, Smith said regional governments must urgently address issues of governance, management and viability, “so that an adequate, high quality, reliable and affordable supply of water is available to support transformation and economic growth and sustainable development”.
Last month, ten member states of the Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) were placed under a drought warning up to March 2016.
With regards to changes within the electricity sector, Smith noted that the Caribbean is lagging behind in the shift towards renewable energy.
He told the audience that while alternative energy is the most promising option for addressing the region’s energy security challenge, the electricity generation capacity derived from renewable energy in CARICOM countries is less than ten per cent, compared to regional targets of 20 per cent by 2017 and 28 per cent by 2022.
“The major barrier, in my view, to rapid expansion of renewable energy generation in the Caribbean, remains that of the monopoly control over generation by the incumbent integrated electric utilities in several instances.
“Across the region, the potential for electricity generation from a range of renewable sources cannot be realized because of the lack of network access,” Smith noted.
He added that only a few Caribbean countries have made progress in the level of renewable energy investment in the electricity sector.
“This has been achieved through the pursuit of varying degrees of legislative and regulatory reforms. Barbados, Belize and Jamaica are examples where such progress has been made,” Smith said.