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Widespread water rationing in SVG

May 12, 2024

KINGSTOWN, St. Vincent, CMC –  Residents across St. Vincent and the Grenadines who are looking towards the mountains for signs of rain are seeing not the white of precipitation but Saharan dust as drought tightens its grip on the nation.

Rivers and reservoirs are low in St. Vincent, resulting in the rationing of water, and in the Grenadines, where there are no streams, rivers or springs, cisterns are empty, resulting in Member of Parliament for the Southern Grenadines, Terrance Ollivierre raising the issue in Parliament.

On Friday, Desiree Neverson-Jack, a forecaster at St. Vincent and the Grenadines Meteorological Services, said in the 72-hour outlook that the chance of significant shower activity across the archipelago over the weekend is low “as moisture content remains limited at both low and middle levels, and sinking air aloft”.

Further, Saharan dust intrusion will continue across the island chain, limiting shower activity and reducing visibility and air quality, the forecaster said.

“The days will continue to be hot and humid. The highest chance of a few showers increases from Sunday night, with Monday forecast to be occasionally cloudy with a chance of few scattered showers,” the forecaster said.

Also on Friday, the Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA), the municipal supplier of water, announced water rationing in large sections of St. Vincent.

Communities supplied by its Dalaway water supply system will see their supply turned off from 9 p.m. to 5 a.m (local time). 

These include South Leeward, West Kingstown, and parts of Central and East Kingstown and West St. George.

Consumers on the Montreal system will have no water from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. and from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., meaning that communities largely in the interior district of Marriaqua will be without water during these times.

The rationing will continue “until conditions improve at the source,” the CWSA said, adding that consumers should ensure that there is adequate water stored for homes and businesses.

The latest notices extend the water rationing to even more consumers, one month after they first came into effect for some communities.

CWSA has also said that disruptions may occur before or after the stipulated time and may go on for a longer period due to unexpected changes in demand and continuing reduction in river flow.

Meanwhile, during Thursday’s meeting of Parliament, the Southern Grenadines legislator raised the issue of water supply to the Grenadines.

Ollivierre told Minister of Grenadines Affairs, Senator Benarva Browne that there is a shortage of potable water supply in the Grenadines during the dry season every year.

“Persons have no recourse than to source water from sources that are not best for human consumption,” Ollivierre said.

He asked Browne what plans were in place to deliver a safe and reliable public water supply to the people of the Southern Grenadines and when this could be put in place.

Browne noted that the dry season coincides with the peak of the tourism season, adding that water is often transported from St. Vincent to the Grenadines to ensure public safety and reliable supply.

“The transportation and distribution of water from St. Vincent will continue throughout the dry spells,” said Browne, who is also minister of urban development, energy, seaports and local government.

She told Parliament that in April the CWSA delivered some 80,000 gallons of water to institutions and residents of Bequia and 40,000 gallons to institutions and residents of Mayreau and Union Island.

“The costs amount to approximately EC$63,000 for these three trips,” Browne said and further told Parliament that the CWSA will make additional deliveries to Mayreau and Union Island as necessary.

“Given the context of the situation and climate change, water conservation is critical and public education must be prioritised,” she said.

“The government works assiduously to ensure that public buildings have adequate water supply to ensure the continuity of government services. Despite all the valiant efforts of this government to provide safe and reliable potable water, we still face real-life challenges such as loose animals, polluting our water systems.

“Residents must also build sizeable cisterns to maximise water harvesting and to ensure that they meet their household demands.”

Browne said that the government will continue to maintain service and develop photovoltaic (PV) plants and desalination plants to provide a clean water supply.

“The government offices also monitor the water levels with collaboration from key stakeholders within the communities.

“The question asked about building resilience to deliver a safe and reliable public water supply to the people of the Southern Grenadines and the Grenadines as a whole. In this era of climate change when rainfall is decreasing, our only option will be desalination through the reverse osmosis powered by PV.”

The minister said the government remains committed “as a policy and strategic priority to collaborate with all relevant agencies, communities to develop strategies, action, systems, and management to achieve clean and sustainable safe water resources for the Grenadines.”

She said ongoing projects and collaborative efforts between the Grenadines and the partners and organisations offer promising solutions to enhance the water infrastructure and safeguard water resources in the Grenadines now and in the near future.

However, Ollivierre told the minister that the water that was sent to the islands of the Southern Grenadines, namely Mayreau and Union Island was not enough.

“I know this situation is critical,” the opposition MP said. “Some people on the island said they didn’t get any and I just want to know how soon another trip would be made to the Grenadines.

“Because, at this point in time, some households didn’t get any at all and there are others only get about a drum and for the whole month no rain. What can we do? How soon would you send water again to the islands of the Grenadines?” Ollivierre said.

Browne said that the management of water systems does not lie within her ministry but with the Ministry of Health.

“But I will work with my colleagues and I will look into the situation and we’ll work towards having this situation rectified as soon as possible,” she said.

In its Caribbean Drought Bulletin for May, the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum said that interest in St. Vincent, the  ABC Islands, Dominica, western Jamaica, central Cuba and northern Belize should closely monitor water resources through May.

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