Water-starved residents in St Thomas, St Joseph, St Andrew and parts of St John are being promised some relief in coming weeks.
The Barbados Water Authority (BWA) said the situation should improve after it installs a borehole in Sweet Vale, St George, which will result in 500,000 gallons of water being supplied to the Castle Grant, St Joseph reservoir.
It will be the third borehole in the district and the Senior Engineer, Operations and Maintenance for the BWA, Wayne Richards, explained to the media, while examining the proposed site yesterday, how it would benefit residents of surrounding areas who have had dry taps for weeks and months.
“With this borehole . . . we are looking to supply the Castle Grant reservoir directly. What happens is that Golden Ridge would pump to Castle Grant, making basically Castle Grant a function of how Golden Ridge performs. So what we’re looking to do is to advantage Castle Grant by giving them a source supply,” he said.
Richards said the pumping station should be active in two weeks, but that timeline was not set in stone.
“I’m hoping that within two weeks we could have our system up and running. We’ve started to set our foundation for the container that would hold our switch gear . . . to drive the pumps . . . . One pump will be in the borehole and the other pump will be in the container,” he explained.
Richards noted that although last Wednesday’s passage of Tropical Storm Matthew delayed the construction of the pumping system, the BWA’s most pressing issue was the lack of equipment to assess problems in the wells.
“We have lost some equipment and the equipment we would have lost would have been due to low water levels and habitational problems. This is associated with the air basically being entrained in the water . . . .What it does is that it damages the propellers,” he said.
“Some of the things have not been going as planned and our spheres have been dwindling too, so the company is really put to the test . . . . We like our customers to have water. Without a good supply to them we don’t have a steady financial situation and then we get problems with our suppliers. . . and then it impacts on the quality of service that we offer. It’s a catch 22-situation.”
Acknowledging the severity of the drought, Richards asserted that the situation in the island’s northern parishes has drastically changed within the past three years.
“Looking as far back as 2013, we had good rainfall levels – 1,600 millimetres of rainfall – and then 2014-2015, we’re only doing like 600, 700 millimetres of rainfall in those two years respectively,” he said.
“That’s way under half, almost a third of what you would have been producing, and that has taken a toll on our ability to supply water to the public.”
To stress the change that had come over time, Richards added: “When I came here [BWA] in 1999 and I went into the well, we had at least 15 or 16 feet of water. I had to be swimming in the water when we went into the well to do inspections. I went into the well and it was disheartening; it was only cutting me like four feet.”
Richards told the media that once the Sweet Vale system was up and running, the BWA would turn its attention to improving the Warleigh, St. Peter system.
“We [will] try to supply Warleigh so we could put more water into the Rock Hall areas into Mount Stepney, via Indian Ground . . . Then into the future – because right now it would be very hard to achieve – we have other plans where we would be trying to move water onto Highway 2A by other means,” he said.
“We have now looked at our situation, and we see areas where we need to improve and bring in water, so we’re looking at areas to bring water otherwise, from other systems that would be plentiful,” added Richards.
BWA Corporate Communications Specialist Joy-Ann Haigh also shared that the government agency was seeking to find appropriate solutions to the water problems.
“The solution is not the same for everywhere, so where we have a borehole here for St Joseph, it may require something else in the north,” she said.
Haigh pleaded with fellow Barbadians to ease the burden by conserving water.
“You can start to conserve water right in your home; it doesn’t cost you anything. It actually helps you save and it helps to save our water supply and help those good people in parts of Barbados that are currently now suffering from outage,” she said.