Tuesday, April 23, 2024

EDITORIAL: Challenge of meeting water demands

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Water, water, nothing like clean pure water.
Barbadians expect that whenever they turn on their taps, clean water will flow. The slightest hint of brown and they complain. But the truth is that we abuse our limited supply.
The complaints of some rural residents about prolonged periods without running water have become commonplace in Barbados.
The challenges are added to by the existence of ageing water mains that leak and thereby result in extensive loss in supply.
There is a growing demand for water by the ever-expanding commercial sector in this water-scarce island. Most houses now have running water and lifestyle changes mean greater consumption in the average Barbadian household.
Our tourism plant has expanded significantly over the years, adding to the demand for more water. All of these are signs of a potential crisis. Our demands on a daily basis will eventually outstrip the supply based on current methods used to naturally replenish.
It is only during periods of drought that there is talk of conservation, even though curtailment of our consumption habits may be enforced only through shut-offs. In the prevailing situation where we have been experiencing consistent and at times heavy rainfall, we have no real way of trapping this vast amount of water. Most of it is lost.
We cannot simply manufacture more water, we have no abundance of natural springs to drain, and the aquifers can only supply based on rainfall. And desalination plants are not only expensive – they are not the ideal solution.
It is evident that we need an urgent solution and effective strategies in water supply management, which must be led by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA). While the suggestion of using wastewater – the water from our showers, sinks and, yes, our toilets – must not be thrown out, it cannot be first option.
Yes, we need to examine what other countries have been doing in terms of recycled wastewater. From Israel to Singapore, the results have been remarkable, especially for irrigation purposes.
But, before pressing the idea of brown water and its benefits on Barbadians, the BWA must undertake an extensive public education programme since there is certainly going to be an element of fear about reusing wastewater.
Barbadians want to be assured that their water supply remains reliable and healthy. The standards for wastewater reuse must be clearly set out, ensuring the exclusion of residual chemicals or the likelihood of such water carrying disease. Independent regulators must be put in place.
While we appreciate that there are big benefits from brown water, we have a national initiative to promote green. Conservation and eliminating the loss of water through leakage in the pipe network must therefore be given pride of place.  

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