With the current 24-hour curfew in place due to the COVID-19 pandemic, more pressure has been placed on the island’s water distribution system.
Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, highlighted the increase in demand for water and the challenges to the distribution networks, while answering questions on the call-in programme Down to Brass Tacks, on Tuesday.
He explained: “We simply have a shortage of water; the rain is not falling; the aquifer levels are low … so we have an already scarce situation compounded by the fact that there is a constant peak demand; it actually is above the normal peak, so it is a challenge.” Mr. Abrahams was referring to the challenge of providing water, especially to those households in parishes with higher elevations like St. John and St. Joseph.
Minister Abrahams stressed that the Authority “can only deliver what is there …. Realistically, until the rain starts to fall and we get a serious rainfall, we are going to have the continuing problems with the low aquifer levels”.
In the meantime, he said in the areas where the BWA is unable to pump water through the pipes, it has been utilizing eight tanker trucks, making a minimum of 12 trips, over a period of 16 hours a day, to service communities and to top-up 101 installed community tanks.
In response to comments circulating that the BWA has been rationing water and carrying out shutoffs in St. John, the Minister stated: “We’re actually not doing shutoffs in St. John. The water is fed into the system every single day until the reservoir that services that system is dry. When it is dry, there is no more water, we have to wait until the reservoir becomes replenished again to then put water back into the system. So, there are no shutoffs occurring in St. John.”
General Manager of the BWA, Keithroy Halliday, further noted that the only parish experiencing interim or periodic shutoffs was St. George, and this was being done to augment the water supply to the parishes of St. John and St. Joseph.
He also explained why customers living in districts close to pumping stations may experience water outages.
“You have two types of lines, you have transmission and you have distribution. Transmission comes principally from the sources, and sends all the water up to the reservoirs and then the reservoirs come down to the distribution … pipelines, and that feeds the various districts, so anyone who is immediately near to a water source may not necessarily get water directly from them. There are a number of engineering issues, including significant pressure, etc.”
On the topic of the BWA giving refunds to its customers, Mr. Halliday noted that it is not as simple as people may think. He said refunding requires collaborative discussion with the Fair Trading Commission, the BWA and the Government of Barbados.
Mr. Halliday added that the BWA is mandated to provide water but it doesn’t necessarily have to be in pipe form, although that is the ideal format, once provided, even if by truck or water tanker, there is a cost attached.
Mr. Abrahams and Mr. Halliday urged members of the public to change their habits in the way they consume water, and to consider installing water saving devices.
They both gave the assurance that the Authority is doing all it could to carry out its mandate of providing water to the Barbadian public.