Mains Replacement A Priority

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Prime Minister, David Thompson (second from right), addresses employees of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) at their Manor Lodge Headquarters. Seated from left are BWA Communications Officer, Yvette Harris; BWA Acting General Manager,??Dr. John Mwansa; BWA Chairman,??Dr. Atlee Brathwaite and Minister of Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe.

There is a great need for refurbishment in the distribution network of the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), especially given the increasing incidences of discoloured water and frequent burst mains.

Prime Minister David Thompson made this observation recently, as he addressed the staff of the BWA at their Manor Lodge Headquarters at Green Hill, St. Michael. ??

"Some of this infrastructure is over 100 years old and the level of un-accounted for water has been estimated at 28 percent and 62 per cent, respectively. Systematic replacement of old mains must be pursued as a priority activity and, to this end, resources will be provided for major mains replacement," he stated.

Mr. Thompson explained that the mains replacement programme sought to reduce the level of water that was un-accounted for, minimise the incidences of discoloured water, and relocate old mains out of carriageways where they were in the way of Government road-works.??????

He also noted that mains replacement also had the adjunct benefit of reducing electricity costs by reducing the level of leakage from the mains.

"The preparatory work to select the most critical mains has been done, with [the] frequency of pipe bursts and presence of discoloured water factored into the selection criteria. This programme, which was initially estimated at $50M, has now been expanded to $150M over a five-year period. A programme of this size cannot be executed using BWA employees alone and private sector involvement will be necessary," The Prime Minister stressed. ??

In outlining the technical challenges faced by the BWA, he noted that improved economic circumstances and living standards had led to the use of various household chemicals and cleaners and the dumping of unwanted household items in numerous places.

Mr. Thompson added: "The upshot of all of this is that the existing Zoning Regulations are now inadequate and need to be strengthened. For this reason, Government has commissioned a study to review the existing Zoning Policy, with one output being the draft of a Groundwater Protection Act. This study should be completed by the end of June, 2009."

He also addressed some of the organisational challenges faced by the BWA during his meeting with the staff. He pointed out that the Authority was a large and complex organisation, but was very narrow at the top.

The Prime Minister explained that while the BWA’s managerial staff only numbered about 12, such staff at other utility companies with a similar customer base was in the region of 20 to 43. He also noted that because of large numbers, the staff per manager ratio at the Authority was about 65, while for utility companies with a similar customer-base it was in the range of 16 to 24.

"The result of all of this is that BWA managers constantly find themselves in the "fire-fighting" mode, with little time for the orderly planning of departmental functions. There will be the urgent need to correct this situation through the strengthening of existing departments and the adding of new units, where necessary," he declared.

"One such unit could be a Regulatory Unit which would focus on facilitating the work of preparing the Authority to submit its first rate application," Mr. Thompson declared.

gapplewhaite@barbados.gov.bb

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