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Water talks: The cost of not paying up


Fri, Jan 27. 2012

Editor: It is with interest that the debate on the recent increases in water rates is being followed.

While it is admirable to see that both sides of the debate have advanced tenable arguments to justify their position, there are other important issues and questions to be considered.{{more}}

The question regarding the potential effect(s) needs to be realistically and scientifically dealt with. How will the increase affect the quality of lives of Vincentians? In others words, what is the real cost of the increase? Will there be an increase in those who cannot afford this basic commodity? Will there be an increase in non-payment or tardiness in settlement of water-bill dues? Will there be an increase in illegal water acquisition such as illegal syphoning and meter tampering? Will there be an increase in water related diseases? Will there be an increase in poverty? Will people have to forgo other essential commodities as a result of the increase? Will this reduce the projected revenue for CWSA, as large segments of the population become more conservative and harvest rainwater? How have these and other important related questions been assessed and factored into the discussion? Responses to these need exposure.

Considering local economic and social factors, one can expect that the majority of the populace will pay the mandatory increase instituted by the CWSA to have access to a reliable supply of potable (essential to life) water. According to past health reports, more than 95% of the population has access to potable water, with the others living within a mile of it. It is hoped that these figures have improved in recent times. So, is this increase being used to provide for the less fortunate few? Or is it a matter of economics?

Nevertheless, despite achievement in making water accessible to a very high percentage of the local populace, there are persons who for numerous reasons will persist in using nearby rivers and streams as either their primary or secondary source of water for domestic or commercial purposes.

The interesting observation about environmental or public health issues is that when one person is affected by a communicable disease it can quickly pass on to the populace with sometimes serious economic and social implications. The concern here is not for the majority who use safe water but the few who are associated in some way with non-pipe borne or alternative water sources i.e. river, streams, drums etc. Considering the current global and regional economic outlook, the last thing any nation wants to experience is an outbreak of any water-related disease. For example, the western hemisphere is confronted by re-emerging diseases, two of them are: dengue fever (a water- related-vector borne disease) and cholera (a water borne disease).

As the nation confronts the various challenges, it is important that the adjustments made do not compromise our high quality of life. Are we willing to pay the real cost of the increased water rates? Is this the right time? Think about it!

Neri James