Barbadians who “steal” water from the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) through illegal connections will be made to pay dearly for the criminal activity which is reportedly becoming a trend.
Minister of Energy and Water Resource Management, Wilfred Abrahams made the comment while responding to recent reports that at least two farmers – one from, St John and another in St Philip were dishonestly acquiring gallons of water from the BWA.
“If you take something that you know has a cost and that you know other people are paying for and you do it covertly, without permission and with no intention of paying for it, that is a criminal activity and it will be dealt with as such,” declared Abrahams.
“We are trying to reduce the cost of water production, but it makes no sense when people are stealing water. So the persons who are stealing water will be prosecuted. We know its happening and we are determined to fight it.”
Abrahams added that while in some cases, thieves who confessed their misdeeds would be allow to repay the water authority, he said those who persisted and were caught would face the full weight of the law.
Last Monday, farmers, in separate interviews with Barbados TODAY predicted that the cost of food would increase significantly due to the increase in commercial water rates and other measures announced by Prime Minister Mia Mottley in last month’s budget speech.
In defence of the increase, the Minister said: “We just corrected the anomaly where commercial water rates were so low that there was no incentive for hotels or anybody else to use water saving devices because the water was simply that cheap.”
Indicating that he empathized with local farmers, Minister Abrahams argued that such challenges did not justify stealing.
“I empathize with farmers who need water for their fields, but equally, other citizens need water in their houses to shower, to bathe and to flush the toilet. If you decided to illegally hook up to the Barbados Water Authority, what justification could you have if your neighbor is paying? It has to be stamped out,” he declared.
“We are going to investigate all of them and when we catch people, we will ensure the matter is dealt with seriously, so that people are in no doubt that the water authority is serious, is being run seriously and is doing its part to for the delivery of water to provide a safe, reliable and efficient distribution of water in Barbados and clean up all the other things that plague us.”
The Minister said the illegal practice was a slap in the face of government, given that Barbados’ water is “among the cheapest in the world and certainly the cheapest in the region” and every attempt was being made to keep the prices down.
“In the face of such problems, what happens is that the cost to the consumer gets driven up.”
Simultaneously, he said authorities were still attempting to tackle the country’s crumbling sewage treatment and pipe infrastructure.
He added that on one hand, the BWA remained the single largest customer for the Barbados Light and Power but was fighting to tackle a situation in which 40% of Barbados’ water usage was not being billed.
In addition to illegal connections, Abrahams said too many Barbadians were still using incorrect meters, resulting in inaccurate readings.
“So you keep having situations where the BWA is trying to do what it has to do and do its best, but it’s getting cheated at almost every single turn,” he said.