For those accepting of biblical scriptures, King Solomon was said to be the wisest of men. He has been quoted as suggesting that in the day of prosperity, to be joyful, but in the day of adversity, consider. Horace, the Roman lyric poet, who some might be more inclined to accept because his existence is not reliant on faith, once opined that adversity had the effect of eliciting talents, which in prosperous circumstances would have lain dormant.
The water shortage, or access to potable water, that has affected Barbadians in recent times, especially those in the northern parishes, has provided us with many lessons. Hopefully, these lessons will be embraced. Unfortunately, though, ours is a culture that is often heavily dominated by complaints rather than assimilation of lessons and considered response to same.
There are politicians who have politicized the water crisis and their satellites and acolytes have predictably added their voices to the chorus. Of course, one can easily understand why the water woes would be a source of consternation, vexation and absolute disgust to persons not having that life-supporting substance at their ready availability.
But in the midst of the tumult and discomfort it is hoped that some lessons are learnt and acted upon. Truth be told, if the People’s Pressure Movement were the Government today, the water crisis would be the same. If Mr Kerry Simmons, Mr Dale Marshall, Miss Mia Mottley, or Mr Donville Inniss were the Prime Minister, the water crisis would be the same. Why? Because the problem of water usage, water wastage, water conservation is mostly cultural, not principally political.
Barbados did not start being a water scarce country in January 2008. Nor did it stop being a water scarce island in December 2007. Our nation has long been listed among the more than 30 countries in the world facing water stress. But from our traditional water usage and wastage, one would not believe that this was ever the case. Barbados’ problems with water have arguably more to do with demand developments over the years than it has to do with actual availability of supply.
It has been reported that Singapore, a densely populated nation, not only has the greatest water stress ranking, but has no aquifers or freshwater lakes. The country’s demand, it is reported, is far greater than its natural supply. But the management of what water it possesses, as well as factors such as cultural sensibilities of its people, technology, reusable initiatives and desalination, has contributed to that country being able to meet the demand for water.
The recent issuance of a prohibition notice by the Barbados Water Authority was instructive. Some might argue it should have been issued in 1966 and maintained. But that such a notice had to be issued at all in a water scarce country exemplifies what has been the problem in Barbados over the years. Water indifference! In many ways, the chickens have now come home to roost.
Barbadians have been advised against washing roadways – a practice that has been carried out for ages by the Sanitation Service Authority in Bridgetown. Barbadians have also been warned against using hoses to wash vehicles, garages, out-rooms, windows, building exteriors, and a range of other areas. Burst pipes have remained in that state for lengthy periods without swift remedial action taken. We also daresay that strict compliance to suggestions from the BWA for commercial and domestic water usage has not been forthcoming. While many in the north of the island have endured water shortages, life has continued without similar humbug in urban Barbados, and to many observers, without adherence to suggested conservational practices.
We appreciate the anguish which the good folk of St Peter, St Joseph, St Andrew and St John, and perhaps elsewhere, have endured. Many suggestions and plans of action have been put forward and put in place by politicians and the experts at the BWA. Some of these initiatives have brought relief, often only temporary. Thankfully, there are those who have shown their community spirit and humanity by coming to the rescue of their fellow Barbadians and adding to the alleviation efforts.
Hopefully, the prevailing water crisis would finally wake up Barbadians as to the need for conservation, proper water usage and acceptance that there must be greater cranial appreciation for that important void between demand and supply. There will be complaints – thirst, uncleanliness and inconvenience will guarantee that. But if or when we return to the joyful days of liquid prosperity, let us be washed by memories of our current adversity and consider.