Desperation! – St.Lucia’s Main Reservoir Dries Up

Followings weeks of speculation, it was now official the John Compton dam had dried up.

The dreaded day of the announcement turned out to be Monday 7th June 2010. Wasco, the island’s agency for the production and distribution of potable water, had been signaling for weeks that the John Compton dam at Roseau, the island’s main water reservoir, would soon dry up if the drought persisted.

Schools on the morning of the announcement remained closed for an indefinite period; businesses that had already begun reducing their working hours were now closed; high levels of absenteeism in government offices were being reported and hoteliers were now turning away guests. The country was now caught in the grip of a major economic and social crisis at the worst of times; the effects of climate change were now upon us. The phrase, “Water is Life” perhaps for the first time was having real meaning for St Lucians.

Neighbouring Caribbean islands were experiencing similar problems. Rumours that Dominica, a traditionally rich water source, would be supplying St Lucia with water proved to be false; they too were having problems and not in a position to alleviate St Lucia’s water crisis, never mind the chance at making huge profits. Water had truly become life, and making money had become a secondary factor.

In an environment of growing crime, near out of control, policemen were being deployed to monitor water conservation laws. Some residents were still washing their cars and water hosing their lawns. More disturbing, were growing reports of busted Wasco pipelines by desperate residents scurrying around communities in search of water. The island’s low level of social development among its citizens was causing havoc to the water distribution network.

Cabinet members were in an emergency session with officials of Wasco, and key people from civil society groups, to formulate strategies to combat what was now a health and life threatening water problem. Hospitals and health centres were earmarked as priority areas for whatever water supply was available— public as well as private.
So desperate had the problem become that government was placing before the parliament a bill to allow a newly created entity with special powers to take control of privately stored water, in excess of 2000 gallons, in homes and businesses. The intention: to make water available to the thousands of citizens who had been without and would continue to be, if such assistance was not available.

Owners of privately stored water in that category would be compensated financially and be restricted to a supply from their own storage of 50 gallons per day per person occupying the premises. Opposition members were expected to support the bill with no changes except to limit the enforcement period of the proposed legislation. Adversity had suddenly brought about some unity among parliamentarians from both sides of the house. Some citizens in the affluent north of the island had taken the issue of water conservation so seriously that outdoor Portakabins had become their new restrooms, flushing toilets was now a new luxury item.

And then there was the already cash-strapped Wasco edging towards financial collapse with debts mounting and revenues plummeting as a result of rationing water to its consumers. Cruise ships unable to purchase water on the island were docking at other ports leaving local tour operators and taxis out in the cold. The knock –on effect of disruption in the tourism sector, manufacturing, government offices and schools left no one untouched by the economic crisis that seem to intensify as each day went by. The shortage of water had become the preoccupation of the nation.

www.stluciastar.com

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The announcement from the BWA (Barbados Water Authority) to import water from Dominica will have to be shelved for now given the drought that is effecting Caribbean nations at this time. The few sprinkles we had Tuesday morning was welcome but  if all we are going to get is sunny & breezy atmospheric conditions without so much as a downpour, this drought will certainly take us into the start of the rainy season/hurricane season which is 3 months away. Between June and November. But most of our rainfall occurs in the months of October, November, December! and we didn’t had enough to start off the year with! In the meantime, reservoirs, crops and farmers are feeling the pinch.

I am of the opinion that BWA’s phrase 2 should be phase1. Rationing of water should have begun but as always we try to catch the horse way long after it has left the stable.

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