Two Independent Senators are calling for better management of the island’s water resources.
During Wednesday’s debate in the Upper House on the Three Houses Spring (Management and Control) Bill, 2023, Senators Dr Chelston Brathwaite and Andrew Mallalieu shared their concerns that not enough was being done to manage the water system.
Dr Brathwaite stressed that given the objective of the current administration to significantly increase crop production, water access and management need to be seen as high priority.
“I believe that the agriculture that we are proposing in order to feed this nation, its success will depend on better management of our water supplies to ensure that during those dry periods of the year, we have sufficient water to keep our crops growing. If we are going to be effective in supplying those food needs, we must be consistent in supply,” said the former Director General of the Inter-American Institute for Cooperation on Agriculture.
“You cannot have a hotel manager who signs with a farmer to provide food for his hotel and then the farmer says to the hotel manager ‘well look, we didn’t have any, so I really can’t supply tomatoes today’. It can’t work like that.
“There has to be consistency of supply, and if there is going to be consistency of supply, there has to be consistency of water. This is where water storage and water harvesting now become critical…. If you don’t do that, you cannot have a modern agriculture sector,”.
Dr Brathwaite gave strong support for the new legislation which grants the Barbados Agricultural Development and Marketing Corporation (BADMC) the authority to manage the spring and the stream in the Three Houses area. This guarantees farmers and others in the area who are entitled to receive and use the water coming from the spring, fair treatment.
“Whether we promote precision agriculture, vertical farming, aquaponics, hydroponics – no matter what kind of agriculture we promote – water is going to be fundamental to our success,” stressed the food security expert and former technical advisor on crop protection and plant diseases.
Meanwhile, Senator Mallalieu expressed concern about the limited storage capacity for water currently managed by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).
“I mentioned earlier that the BWA pumps 40 million gallons per day…. It might come as a surprise to you to find out as it did to me, that the total reservoir capacity in Barbados today is 40 million gallons. One day’s supply of water. So we don’t actually have a reservoir; you have a throughput because the entire storage you have is one day’s storage and that storage is distributed that day. So we have a storage issue.”
The real estate expert also shared his view that landowners who maintain or install new “suck wells” used to funnel water into the country’s aquifers, should be compensated for their efforts and assisted in the maintenance of the installations.
“I think we need to move very quickly towards recognising that this service that is being done by those who have suck wells that are maintained on their property, and is supplying our aquifer, such that the BWA can then pump it and sell it back to us. They should be paid for keeping those wells in good condition.
“We should inspect those wells. We should know where they are, and if we did it well, we [won’t be] a water-scarce country. Our agriculture industry in Barbados has been on its knees for more than 20 years. They don’t clean the suck wells; they can’t afford to do it. They don’t debush the areas leading to it… We need to aggressively move back, look at those suck wells, identify where they are, and pay the landlord owner who is maintaining [them],” he said. (SB)