With approximately 80 per cent of the island’s rainfall being effectively utilised,?? the Barbados Water Authority (BWA) has the capacity to continue to meet the island’s water demands, as long as conservation practices are put in place.
This assurance has come from the BWA’s Manager of Engineering, Dr. John Mwansa, who is calling for the efficient management of this scarce resource at the operational, as well as domestic levels.
"As long as we can?? utilise water more efficiently at?? the?? operational level -?? in terms of responding to burst?? mains quickly, replacing the ones that are leaking…as well as applying water conservation approaches [within our homes and businesses],?? we could?? still extend the time at which we would?? have?? to look at alternative supply," he said.
The engineering expert, who was speaking following a recent tour of the Authority’s pumping stations and sites, said one of the island’s main problems was the volume of available water.
"If you look at the rainfall, we are not a dry area at all. But the … amount that can actually become useful water … is only 80 per cent on average of what the rain provides," Dr. Mwansa explained.
Citing the obvious link between development and water usage, Dr. Mwansa noted that when standpipes were in use, householders used approximately 10 gallons of water per day, because they had to lift it.
"The minute you moved from standpipes and provided water by a pipe in the yard …that [usage] moved up and when you put it inside the house and made it more convenient, the volume also went up. So, we have to work to conserve," he underlined.
The BWA official also highlighted the disparity between domestic and industrial demand, and how these two combined to affect demand levels.
"If you are looking at industries that use a lot of water, for example …golf courses which use a high quantity to irrigate, then, the demand would be higher. If you look at the hotel industry, the average water usage per guest per night is 670 litres compared to 240 litres per person, per day for the average domestic user. So it depends on what you actually end up with – the mix, that will determine how quickly you use up the available water," he opined.
Dr. Mwansa, however, underscored that it was the BWA’s responsibility to fulfil all of the island’s water needs and it would continue to do so.
"The BWA is not charged with providing water just for domestic supply, it is charged with the responsibility of providing water for all users. Now we could do that by piping it, or we can give them (industries) licences to extract on their own – but, we have to provide the water. We have to recognise that the economy cannot be based on one single activity. It has to be multi-faceted," he maintained.
Speaking to the issue of demand and supply, especially for high-volume industries, Minister of the Environment, Dr. Denis Lowe, stressed that close attention should be paid to development planning.
"We have to look at what types of industries will require larger quantities of water and see whether or not…it is beneficial to the country, in terms of pursuing those industries.
"What this tour demonstrates [primarily] is that we also have to look seriously at how we are going to recover that high percentage of unaccounted for water …because if we can squeeze that number down, then it puts more water at our disposal. If we can get consumers to be more conservative … that will also keep the water supply within a safe zone," Dr. Lowe surmised.
Dr. Mwansa cited the BWA’s wastewater re-use programme as one of the viable solutions.?? "If we could provide golf-course users and others who do not require potable water with treated waste water – then, we would free-up what is allocated to them and locate that for domestic purposes," he explained.