For ten straight days, folks in Foster Hall, St John had to go without water – and water tanker.
Over in St Andrew, a frustrated mother cries of going for days upon days without water.
In St Joseph, an elderly man says: “What’s the use of complaining?
“Every time you turn on the pipe, there is either no water or a few trickles you rush to catch because you just don’t know when it will be there.”
Another year, another period of predictable dry taps for St John, St Joseph, St Andrew, St Peter, St James and St Thomas.
Apart from households, farmers are also reeling from the lack of water as drought persists.
Yesterday, the Barbados Beef and Dairy Producers Association disclosed that the dry conditions are threatening their livelihoods.
Association President Annette Beckett explained: “Without the water to wet the grass, preferably rainwater, you have a severe problem with forage.
“It is not good because it is not fertilized properly and this can lead to an impact on the production of the milk and the solids because the solids are an important factor in the milk for us.”
The main culprit, drought, has been aided and abetted by an ageing and overburdened water distribution system.
And as always the pressure is on for the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) to remedy the escalating problem.
In a statement issued via the Government Information Service on Monday, the BWA’s acting director of engineering Elvin Jordan outlined the issues hampering the delivery of services to the worst-affected parishes.
He noted that water supply levels at the Bowmanston, Applewhaites, and Sweet Vale wells and reservoirs are at critically low levels owing to the lack of rainfall and this has severely hampered pumping to the distribution systems.
Jordan said: “The authority is doing its best to address the issues and rebalance the distribution network to assist the residents of all affected areas, wherever possible.
“However, none of the solutions is a quick fix as there is an overall significant reduction in the water available for pumping to these areas.”
In the interim, the BWA said it has been working to identify and address any leaks in the affected areas, even as the nightly shutoffs in St John, St Thomas, St George and St Lucy continue. The authority has also been installing community tanks in some areas.
Water shortages in Barbados are nothing new. Our country has been among the world’s most water-scarce nations for a long time. Yet, there’s still enough evidence that we have not fully understood what that means. Our actions show it.
It is clear that Government does not have all the answers. In fact, no administration has been able to find a sustainable solution to the water shortages that confront the country year after year. That’s why the non-sensical politicisation of our water woes ought to be dismissed.
We need a comprehensive water plan that focuses on reusing wastewater, recharging aquifers and preventing overuse.
Minister of Water Resources Wilfred Abrahams told us just last month that ideally Barbados needs to replace its old, rusted mains and that could cost in excess of $2.5 billion — money we don’t have.
Still, we can’t throw our hands in the air, even as the BWA continue efforts to replace mains, Government has to also examine the bigger issue of our continuing development, and the increased demand for water supply against the actual availability of water.
Much has been said about digging more wells, the utilization of wastewater, desalination plants and the like. Sooner, rather than later, we will have to seriously plot the way forward.
But, recovery plans must not solely be left to Government.
While the BWA has improved its communication with the public via social media and the like, there’s still much to be done to get the word out on what is happening to people’s water supply.
In 2019, residents hardest-hit by the water shortages should not be forced to cry out on radio talk shows or rant on social media for water tankers.
Once a problem has been identified, a clear schedule of such visits by tankers should be made available to affected residents so they too can get on with their lives.
For us, who still have the privilege of running water when we turn our taps, let’s adhere to the BWA’s prohibition notice.
Some of us are still washing our cars and replenishing our lawns and flowering plants, while our neighbours in the north simply can’t get water to cook, bathe, drink.
Welcome to the new normal, same as it ever was. We don’t have water problems – so long as it rains.
We need to save for the many not-so-rainy days to come with a plan that addresses finance, public policy, personal responsibility, education and infrastructure repair and replacement.