World Water Day message from Minister of Energy and Water Resources
(File Photo) BGIS
Each year, on March 22, as we acknowledge World Water Day, the world pauses to recognise the critical role and the undeniable importance of water. All Barbadians are aware that without water, there can be no life. We also know that clean, drinkable water is an increasingly scarce resource which must not be wasted or treated in a callous way.
This year for World Water Day the focus is on the relationship between water and climate change. When we speak of climate change, we refer to significant long-term changes in the expected patterns of average weather over a significant period of time.
In the Caribbean region, these changes are varied and include increased surface temperatures evidenced by warmer days and nights, increased salinity in coastal wells as a result of rising sea levels and us facing more intense and frequent extreme events such as hurricanes, floods and droughts.
Around the planet, there are other incidences of changes in global climates evidenced by melting ice caps, rising sea levels, changes in precipitation and increased ocean temperatures.
What has caused these changes? Well, research acknowledges the role of natural variations such as volcanoes, but overwhelmingly the science has shown that human activity is the major cause of the increased greenhouse gases in the atmosphere which have resulted in the observed warming of the planet.
This increasing unpredictability in climate has brought with it unprecedented challenges for the Ministry of Energy and Water Resources, and the Barbados Water
Authority (BWA) in particular. The changes in recent times have resulted in variations to underground water quality and water supply. It is undeniable that water as a sector critical to livelihood is inextricably linked to our climate and therefore cannot be addressed in the same laissez faire manner as before.
Information obtained from the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology for calendar year 2019 indicates that Barbados’ annual rainfall level in 2019 was only 60% of our mean average. These types of changes require new and dynamic thinking in order to counter what could be devastating impacts on the ability of the BWA to continue to provide a safe, reliable and efficient supply of water island-wide.
What is of greater concern is that these changes are predicted to continue and in some cases escalate in the future. Thus, it becomes even more critical that as a country we acknowledge the need for proper use and conservation of our drinking water supply.
The government has plans in place for the augmentation of Barbados’ water supply with the use of containerised desalination, and more creative solutions; especially to ensure the reliable supply of water to those areas usually hardest hit by outages and low water pressure.
We, as a people, must continue to work within this new world of water and climate change in a way that shows we care and understand our new reality. There is no room for wasteful or unnecessary activities which involve water. By now, water tank installation with the requisite pumping apparatus should be more commonplace and responsible Barbadians should be using safely-collected rainwater for the washing of cars and the watering of plants. Barbadians should also be investing in
low-flow toilets and water-saving devices for their homes and offices to reduce the amount of water necessary to engage in our daily activities in a sanitary way.
The government is also developing a funding arrangement whereby Barbadians who require assistance with these upgrades can benefit from a fund specifically designed for that purpose. However, the benefits from these installations will only be attained if they are utilised in a manner which guarantees the overall decrease in water consumption. As an example, the installation of a high-efficiency faucet aerator is only beneficial if you maintain or reduce your normal water use. It is counterproductive, to install an aerator to reduce consumption and then power wash your house … there will be no savings with that type of behaviour!
As Minister with responsibility for water resources, I am keen to see Barbados improve the metrics of water supply. I am not daunted by the reality of the challenges which lie ahead. Instead I look forward to the creative opportunities which this new decade presents and I hope that Barbadians will continue to work together to allow us to develop reasonable solutions to these new and worrying climate change dynamics.