By Glenroy Blanchette
In its latest Drought Bulletin for April 2018, the Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network (CDPMN) reported concerns over long-term and short-term drought in several Caribbean islands.
The assessment for Cuba and Antigua prompted the CPDMN to state that “water resources should be monitored for long-term drought that can affect groundwater and large catchments, up until the end of the dry season at least,” in those two islands. The report also noted South-eastern Haiti is under long-term drought and that Belize should be monitored as that country faces the possibility of long-term drought.
The islands of the Eastern Caribbean experienced mixed conditions in February varying from slightly dry to extremely wet.
In St. Kitts-Nevis, the dry conditions of the past two months has forced the Water Services Department in St. Kitts to re-implement a water rationing programme for Basseterre and its immediate environs. Acting manager of the Water Services Department Denison Paul said the flow of water has reduced significantly as there has been very little rainfall, and that has led to a reduction in the surface water supply.
“We are still in drought. Our data is showing that since 2015 we were experiencing and still are experiencing the worst drought on record in the history of St. Kitts,” Paul stated.
There was increased rainfall in 2016. However, the levels of surface water remain extremely low and insufficient to replenish the aquifer systems on the island. There has been reduced water flows from surface intakes at Wingfield, Franklands and Phillips’. This situation has placed serious challenges for the Water Services Department.
“Based on everything that is happening, we will be instituting water rationing for Basseterre and its environs … because we have to ensure that we have sufficient water for use during peak periods,” Paul stated.
In 2015, the government instituted a water rationing programme to combat an ongoing drought. Water was being pumped from the Basseterre Valley Aquifer on a continuous basis without adequate recharge, a situation that could destroy the aquifer. The aquifer provides about 40 percent of the island’s drinking water supply.
The government has urged citizens and private institutions to practice water conservation such as repairing leaks, avoiding washing of vehicles with hoses, refraining from watering lawns, and purchasing large storage containers.
In 2016, a 4-day national training workshop on the Development of National Drought Management Policies and Early Warning Information Systems was organized by the OECS Commission’s Reducing the Risks to Human and Natural Assets Resulting from Climate Change (RRACC) project and the National Drought Mitigation Centre out of the University of Nebraska-Lincoln.
The Water Services Department has continued its response efforts to the impacts of climate change on water resources and to build greater public awareness about water issues.
“There is now greater public awareness about the importance of and need for water conservation. The public is more involved. When they observe leaks in the water distribution systems, they call in a report it,” said Paul.
According to the Water Services Manager, a Draft National Drought Policy for St. Kitts-Nevis has been submitted to Cabinet following consultations with key public and private sector stakeholders. The purpose of the policy is to manage drought situations and to establish a technical committee to advise Cabinet on related water issues. Paul further indicated that there is an ongoing Caribbean Development Bank funded project which seeks to build resilience to climate change in the water sector by increasing surface water storage capacity, reducing non-revenue water, and creating opportunities for investment.