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'Caribbean water consumption unsustainable'

Published:Friday | October 10, 2014 | 12:00 AM

Petre Williams-Raynor

PARADISE ISLAND, Bahamas: WITH CARIBBEAN countries consuming on average 400 litres of water per person per day, urgent action is required to ensure the long-term availability of the resource, given climate-change realities, including extreme weather events such as droughts.

The advice has come from David Boyce, Caribbean regional manager for Cole Engineering International, who recently undertook research on the water sector in the region on behalf of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB).

"What we are facing is significant periods whereby water could be scarce and the Caribbean has been defined as [a region of] water-scarce countries," Boyce told The Gleaner at the 23rd annual Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association Conference here on Tuesday.

Trinidad and Tobago tops the list of high water consumers at close to 800 litres per person per day, followed by Dominica with close to 700 litres, the British Virgin Islands and Montserrat at more than 600 litres, and Barbados and St Lucia with more than 500 litres.


Others like Jamaica, Antigua and Barbuda and the Cayman Islands consume between 295 and 400 litres per person per day.

Given these figures, Boyce said a reduction in consumption — currently about twice, on average, the global benchmark of 270 litres per person per day for good operating systems — is a must.

It is essential, too, that the region tackle the scourge of non-revenue water — accounted for by leakage because of poor infrastructure, inaccurate metering and theft — which gets up to over 60 per cent in countries such as Jamaica and Guyana, according to data from the CDB study.

"The Caribbean has to get more aggressive in addressing these challenges," the Cole Engineering professional said.

Critical to that effort, he noted, is an overhaul of infrastructure and going after financing to make that happen.

"One of the biggest challenges within the Caribbean is financing of the infrastructure. The infrastructure has been left unattended for maybe 15 to 20 years and the reasons for that is we have pipes in the ground and you are not seeing them. After a while, they deteriorate. Some of the pipes are old, cast iron pipes. These pipes tend to be encrusted and deteriorate so they block the water from going in and then they break and leak," Boyce explained.

He added that greater effort is needed to engage the private sector even as documents distinguishing the water financing needs of the Caribbean — as distinct from Latin America — need to be prepared.

"You will go to conferences [for example] and there is no document on the Caribbean. You will have documents on the Pacific and so forth [but] we are locked in with Latin America so all the money goes to like Chile and so forth," he observed.