At a time when Barbados is battling the twin challenges of COVID-19 and the unwelcomed ash from the continuing eruption of La Soufriere, another threat looms.
Though far from new, the issue is critical and we have to face it or risk additional unwanted pressure to our current state of affairs.
That threat is our dwindling water supply.
Now more than ever the demand for water is high and critical.
But on Monday, a quick dose of reality from the pleading Barbados Water Authority General Manager Keithroy Halliday reminded all and sundry that the scarcity of water in this country is unfinished business desperately in need of an action plan.
Hours after Barbadians heeded the call to start a national clean-up, Halliday warned consumers to significantly reduce the amount of potable water being used or face the possibility of islandwide water outages.
He said: “The washing down of houses has to be carefully managed, the washing down of cars has to be similarly managed. We are asking everyone to use harvested water or non-potable water wherever they can but for the time being please allow us to be able to manage our water supply so that everyone can get some water, not only for today but for the next several days.”
Halliday explained that the drain on the scarce resource was already affecting households in communities across the islands with dry taps.
His call drew the ire of consumers on social media. Some reasonably suggested that with the high level of ash, increased water usage is unavoidable.
Fair enough — but Halliday did stress indiscriminate use- so instead of washing down the car with a hose – how about two buckets of water instead. We all can agree that every resident is deserving of easy access to water particularly now but it shouldn’t be wasted.
Of course, there were nonsensical and ridiculous comments that should be dismissed. Some suggested that as long as a consumer pays his or her water bill, they are free to use water how and whenever they want.
Clearly, these commenters have been living under a rock. Scores of bill-payers in St John, St Peter, St Joseph and elsewhere have had to trek to village water tanks, purchase bottled water or depend on family and friends for this precious resource.
Whether or not we like to be told, we all can do more to conserve water if only to ensure more of us get a fair share. Reasonable residents will not fault the BWA chief for the call, but equally the BWA itself must demonstrate that conserving water is paramount by better responding to bursts across the islands. There are still too many instances of water running from burst pipes though often reported to the authority.
But the bigger issue remains. We need a comprehensive plan for our water supply.
Our water resources are constantly under pressure and increasingly the provision of a consistent water supply is uncertain.
We are aware that Government has articulated plans to construct desalination plants to alleviate the problem and the Vineyard project expected to boost water supply to the eastern sections of the island is well in train.
But ever aware that our water issues need solutions, we urge authorities to keep this issue very much on the table.
Clearly, there are no easy solutions.
We should consider our water harvesting systems, invest in water recycling, focus on crops that are not water-intensive, and reduce water leakage, among other things.
Most importantly though, citizens must understand that our water is a finite resource and we have to save every drop.