Barbados is seeking to change and upgrade a 1964 water policy decision as it relates to water, ground water resources and zoning.
Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, disclosed this on Thursday during the first post-cabinet press conference, at Government Headquarters, Bay Street, St Michael.
Minister Abrahams said that based on the information received in 2011 from a commissioned green paper, Cabinet will introduce into Parliament in the coming weeks a new water zoning and land use policy.
He added that studies have shown that the information which previously informed the 1964 policy is now “obsolete, archaic, out of date and no longer relevant”.
Abrahams also said that the 1964 zoning policy was guided primarily on bacterial contamination from faeces, so Zones One to Five and the delineation of zones was based on the amount of time a molecule of water took to reach the outer limit of the zone to the water catchment area.
He noted that currently, the major contaminant to our ground water resource is nitrates from fertilizers and sewage, and whereas Zone One was once deemed okay for agriculture, not all types of agriculture could be done in this zone.
He said with the new information, government had to decide to revise the policy and the permitted use of land.
Minister Abrahams stated: “Some features of the new policy are we no longer have Zones One to Five; we now have instead zones A to E. Zone A is a strict exclusion zone, which is smaller in area than the existing zone one, with no new developments and restricted agriculture.
“Zone B is a pathogen management zone with stricter rules for sewage treatment and disposal; Zone C is a chemicals management zone; Zone D is a recharged controlling zone, which encompasses the rest of the limestone area with continued standards for waste water treatment; and Zone E is a non-recharged contributing area, principally Scotland district, and areas where water does not actually soak through.”
Once laid in Parliament the information on the new water zoning and land use policy will be circulated among the wider public. The government will have consultations on the policy with feedback from as many stakeholders as possible.
“We want the public to air their views and their concerns and at the end of that process, we will fine tune and finalize what will constitute the new water protection and land use policy for Barbados,” Minister Abrahams said.
Highlighting that this new policy will look at Barbados’ water zoning in terms of not just the water table alone, but Barbados as one large coastal area, the focus going forward will be on ‘prevention rather than cure’.
“So, we’re now not just looking as to what do we do with the water, when it comes out the aquifer if it is contaminated; the focus is now on stopping contamination from happening to the aquifers, to the water catchment areas and also contamination in the coastal areas,” Minister Abrahams pointed out.
The Water Resources Minister reported that one of the major spinoffs from the proposed new policy is the freeing up of land area for development.
Barbados has a finite amount of land area, and government has to find practical ways of maximizing land use, while causing minimum harm to the environment and the water table.