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SVG on drought alert, as water levels lower than annual average

SVG on drought alert, as water levels lower than annual average

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With a significant reduction in water flow at several of the water systems across St Vincent and the Grenadines, the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) has warned that the country will experience drought conditions later this year.

This caution is in line with predictions from the CARICOM Outlook Forum (CARICOF) that the Caribbean region is highly likely to {{more}}experience “extreme weather conditions” in the upcoming months.

This, according to CWSA senior engineer (with responsibilities for Water Resources) Bernard Maloney, who addressed the media at a press conference last Friday.

Maloney said that having looked at data produced over the past five years, January’s water levels were below average, especially at the Dalloway system (a reduction of 35 per cent), which is SVG’s most important water source.

“It’s quite scary. Even though we have been having rains and periods of rains, it’s not really enough to recharge our watershed…” he lamented.

Maloney further noted that the Majorca system has also seen a reduction of 75 per cent of water flow.

Explaining that drought is a “frequently occurring climate hazard” in small island developing states such as SVG, he pointed out that his department endeavours to build resilience through the data that it collects, and by partnering with local and regional entities.

Additionally, Maloney said that the CWSA has been tackling the problem in several ways, which includes high level meetings to discuss and brainstorm solutions, targetting high pressure water leaks and wastage from large buildings and private homes, and looking at the integrity of our main and secondary intakes to capture raw water, among others.

Maloney also noted that there was “excessive consumption” of water in Government buildings – with 1 – 2 million gallons sometimes being recorded per month.

He also gave an overview of the function of his department in collecting information regarding surface and ground water levels, precipitation levels, soil temperature, and other factors that contribute to and affect overall water levels.

CWSA general manager Garth Saunders made mention that CWSA is always on drought alert at this time of year (from February to May), but it is not something that is widely publicized.

“But we always have our guard up,” he insisted.

“Following the prediction of drought, there is also a prediction of flooding later on in the year… both issues will impact us significantly.”

Saunders explained that in the face of these issues, the Water Resources Department – which was established in 2006/07 – is integral to monitoring water levels and coming up with solutions.

“It’s a question of CWSA being more aware of our total water resources on island.”

The CWSA general manager further said that the company is engaged in several projects that are designed to lessen the effects of drought, flooding and other events that can affect the country’s water supply.

CWSA is presently engaged in a “major” construction project at Belle Isle, which involves the installation of a storage tank that has the capacity to store 500,000 gallons of water.

“This project is consistent with the policy of CWSA over the years to gradually increase our island-wide storage capacity.”

In 2002/03, at the start of the Windward Water Supply Project, CWSA’s island-wide storage capacity was 3.2 million gallons. This was increased to 4 million gallons by the end of the project, and, to date, stands at 5.8 million gallons.

“The increase in storage capacity on island is very important for us in terms of outages, occasioned by landslides and floods, and also occasioned by drought.”

Additionally, CWSA is engaged in extending its sewerage line system stretching from the Milton Cato Memorial Hospital to the CWSA headquarters, at a cost of approximately $500,000. It is scheduled to be complete by March/April this year.

The CWSA is also working on completing the water supply to the Argyle International Airport – which is about 75 per cent complete – and replacing the Dalloway system transmission mains.

Water supply to the Sandy Bay area is also currently being worked on.

Also present at the press conference was Winsbert Quow, manager of the Solid Waste Management Unit, and Joan Ryan, public relations and marketing manager. (JSV)

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