|Minister with responsibility for Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick|
In order to effectively respond to the economic crisis as part of a nearly one hundred and twenty million dollar loan stimulus package in 2008, Government embarked on a number of construction, road works projects, as well as accelerated housing construction programmes.?? But one major component involves improving the current water supply distribution system across the island as administered under the Barbados Water Authority (BWA).?? In order to achieve this, a loan was secured from the Inter American Development Bank to the tune of US$190,770. It involves water mains rehabilitation and replacement and customer meter replacement.
In an interview with the Barbados Government Information Service today, Minister with responsibility for Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, announced that the BWA had an important role to play as part of Government’s capital works projects, vis-a-vis the establishment and rehabilitation of the distribution network for water in the island.
He said that as part of the IDB funded project, new water mains would be rehabilitated and established and 104,000 water metres changed. Dr. Estwick noted this was designed to "reduce the number of dysfunctional metres or those that result in significant loss of revenue for the BWA".
He added: "The BWA engaged Citicorp [Merchant Bank] for another loan, which will be utilised to help upgrade our mains distribution network in addition to the Capital Works Division of the BWA.?? This is significant, because the Capital Works Division has capacity challenges and it is about time that we upgrade, not only the human resource numbers in that Division, but also the technical aspects of the Division, [that is with] more engineers, [and] more skills, but also upgrade the management and technological inputs into that Division so that it becomes a revenue earning Division for the BWA."
Looking at another aspect of the strategy to assist in the upgrading process, Minister Estwick indicated that this would involve establishing private and public sector partnerships with Ionics Fresh Water Ltd. ??"We are in the process of finalising negotiations with Ionics [Fresh Water Ltd.] in regard to the extension of that contract and I am confident we can bring [about] the extension of the contract and the signing of a new contract within a month or so," he disclosed.
The Water Resource Management Minister noted that the contract with the company would allow for the desalination plant to start producing water for the Barbados Water Authority at almost maximum capacity of approximately 27,000 cubic metres of water per day. He said it currently only produces about "15,000 to 16,000 cubic metres of water per day", adding that this excess capacity would be delivered to the Belle Reservoir, "thus enhancing the quality of water pumped from that reservoir".
He continued: "The agreements within the extended Ionics contract would allow for Ionics to construct three new mains: one from the Belle to Bussa Roundabout; one from Fort George Reservoir to Searles; and the other from Brittons Hill Reservoir to Providence Reservoir; thus enhancing the flow of water to Christ Church and parts of St. Philip. Dr. Estwick underlined that this would then support the various building projects in parts of the St. Philip/Christ Church catchment areas, which represented part of government’s thrust to maintain employment and drive economic activity.
Furthermore, he added: "We are also looking at finalising another project which is designed to create a new reservoir within the St. Philip catchment area and to take advantage of the availability of water in [that catchment] area and to distribute that water within already existing networks, so as to deal with the low pressure issues and to support development."?? The minister said he hoped that this agreement would be concluded within the next few months.
Moreover, along with these developments, he emphasised that this would not be the end of government’s infrastructure projects.?? Dr. Estwick maintained that while these ventures were in operation, improvements to the distribution network to the northern side of Barbados would be undertaken. He noted that this would necessitate having the west coast main "completed and operational to support domestic use and to drive housing and other business development".
The Minister declared: "If we can achieve this, that is, the?? contractual arrangement within the next three months, we would be in a position within a two-year span to greatly enhance water distribution around Barbados to support the many now stalled housing developments, commercial developments and international foreign direct investment as condominiums and hotels.