Ministerial Statement by Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams, on the impact of present dry weather conditions on the water resources of Barbados.
Over the years, Barbados has experienced droughts of different magnitudes and impacts (e.g. 1991, 1993, 1994, 1997, 2002, 2007, 2009 and 2015). One of the major difficulties in dealing with the droughts was the issue of who was responsible for declaring a drought at national level because of the different definitions and criteria used by different water users. For example, agricultural users define droughts differently from water supply managers.
However, in recent years since the establishment of the Caribbean Regional Climate Centre and the Caribbean Outlook Forum, the regional and national agencies have taken lead from the forecasts put out by the Caribbean Institute of Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH) which, inter alia, provides wet season and dry season Climate Outlook information.
This year the outlook for the Caribbean indicates that the region is being impacted by a weak El Nino which has the potential to extend into 2020. The indications are that there will be drier weather conditions and this is reflected by a projection of increased chance of drier and hotter conditions from April to October 2019.
As such even though Barbados is going into the beginning of the rainy season from June 2019, the rainfall amounts between June and October are expected to be lower than normal as this will be negatively impacted by the forecasted drier conditions.
Barbados is currently experiencing problems in providing adequate water supplies across the island as a result of reduced water levels and rising chloride levels in the coastal supply wells.
The drought conditions are likely to result in a compounding of the problems being experienced due to the fact that the aquifer recovery expected from the start of the normal rainy season in June, will be delayed and the wells now experiencing high chloride and falling water levels may continue to do so.
Provisions of the BWA Act for dealing with drought or other causes of water deficiency.
Restrictions as to use in cases of shortage.
Regulation 14 of the Barbados Water Authority (Water Services) Regulations 1982 reads as follows:
(1) Where there is a deficiency in the supply of water owing to a drought or other cause, the Authority may, by notice, prohibit either absolutely or subject to such conditions as the Authority specifies and for such period as the Authority considers necessary or expedient, the use of water supplied by, or obtained through the pipes of the Authority for
- irrigation or watering of gardens, lawns and grounds;
- filling or supplying tanks, ponds, baths or swimming pools other than
- dipping tanks for cattle,
- domestic baths not exceeding 120 litres in capacity, and
- elevated reserve tanks, not exceeding 800 litres in capacity and connected to household sewerage or water supply systems;
- washing roadways, pavements, paths, garages, outrooms or vehicles; and
- any purpose that, in the opinion of the Authority, requires the use of a considerable or excessive quantity of water.
(2) A notice mentioned in paragraph (1)
(a) must specify the date on which the prohibition takes effect; and (b) must be published
- in the Official Gazette, and
- in a daily newspaper circulating in Barbados for not less than 4 days preceding the date upon which the prohibition takes effect.
(3) While a prohibition is in effect, no person shall use or cause or permit to be used, for any prohibited purpose, any water supplied by or obtained from the pipes of the Authority.
(4) A person who contravenes this regulation is guilty of an offence and liable on summary conviction to a fine of $500 and in default of payment to imprisonment for 1 month.
Given the current chloride and water levels at the BWA supply wells and the outlook of the CIMH, I have instructed the Barbados Water Authority to immediately proceed with the full activation of its Drought Mitigation Plan. In this regard,
- Drought warning measures will be instituted in order to control demand.
- A prohibition notice will be issued for the period June to August, with the provision to extend it as necessary.
- A public awareness program will be implemented with immediate effect to educate the public on appropriate water conservation measures that should be implemented by various water users.
In addition to the Prohibition Notice the BWA will also publish guidelines to the Prohibition Notice to address the most frequently raised concerns of various water use groups.
Barbados should be assured that the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources and the BWA will leave no stone unturned in the effort to mitigate the effects of these drought conditions.
This is a difficult time and all Barbadians must play their part to be water smart and practice water conservation.
Minister of Energy and Water Resources, Wilfred Abrahams