Ministerial Statement To Commemorate World Water Day From The Hon. Ian Patches Liburd, Minister Of Public Infrastructure, Posts, Urban Development And Transport

I bid you Warm Greetings my Fellow Citizens and Residents.

World Water Day is marked on the 22nd of March every year, it is a day to celebrate water and a day to make a difference for the members of the global population who suffer from water related issues. It is a day to prepare for the way we manage water in the future. In 1993, the United Nations General Assembly designated the 22nd of March as the first World Water Day. Twenty-three (23) years later, World Water Day is celebrated world-wide each year, thus shining the spotlight on a different issue.

The theme for this year is “Water and Jobs”.

Water is the essential building block of life, yet it is more than just essential to quenching our thirst or protecting our health; water is vital for creating jobs and supporting economic, social, and human development.

Today, half of the world’s workers – approximately 1.5 billion people – work in water-related sectors. Moreover, nearly all jobs, regardless of the sector, depend directly on water. But at the same timel, despite the indelible link between jobs and water, millions of people whose livelihoods depend on water are often not recognized or protected by basic labour rights.

In St. Kitts, the Water Services Department employs over 100 persons who perform the difficult task of managing the island’s fresh water resources. Their job involves capturing water from our traditional surface and groundwater sources, treating that water, storing it and then distributing it to consumers in our various towns and villages.

The task of bringing water from the source to our taps is challenging work that requires a wide variety of disciplines working together: Mechanics, electricians, masons, pipefitters, treatment plant and pump operators, foremen, inspectors and engineers all working in concert for one purpose – to deliver a safe and reliable water supply to the general public.

Their job has oftentimes been described as invisible because it is concentrated in remote areas including the mountains of Phillips Village, Greenhill in Cayon and Wingfield Mountain in Old Road. They drill wells in excess of 300 feet below the earth’s surface and pump water to storage reservoirs nestled in the many hills all around our island.

The pipelines that connect these sources to the storage tanks and to consumers are hidden three (3) feet underground. This work is rarely seen and seldom appreciated.

I therefore encourage the general public to pause on March 22nd, 2016 ‘World Water Day’ and reflect on the good work the employees of the Water Services Department continue to perform so as to ensure a daily flow of water through our taps. A job that is even more challenging as we endure this historic drought.

Many people work in jobs directly related to the water sector and need a reliable water supply for their livelihoods. Our local bottlers, be it soft drinks, beer or water provide employment for significant portions of our population. Our farmers as well, need water to irrigate their crops if they are to sustain their families, feed the nation and help the country to achieve food security.

The hotels need water not only to cook, clean and wash but also to maintain the positive visitor experience to our destination.

The cruise sector needs the flow of good quality water to the many cruise liners that converge in our shores. It is estimated that we will welcome over (1) million cruise visitors for the 2015-2016 Season. The nexus between water, tourism and jobs cannot therefore be clearer. An unreliable supply of good quality water, will jeopardise tourism, kill jobs, destroy livelihoods and ultimately ruin families.

This year, the Water Services Department will be hosting a month of activities to celebrate World Water Day. The staff of the department will be engaging the communities by visiting both primary and secondary schools, and appearing on local radio and television shows to discuss the importance of water in our daily lives. We will discuss the shared responsibility in protecting and managing this precious resource.

On March 22nd, World Water Day, there will be a Hand Over Ceremony for a fleet of six (6) vehicles to the Water Services Department. This will include a vehicle donated by the Development Bank of St. Kitts and Nevis. These vehicles will replace the derelict fleet that for many years negatively impacted staff response times and presented occupational health and safety risks for our workers.

My Ministry is therefore proud that it has fulfilled this commitment to improve the conditions under which the Water Service Department’s employees are now transported to their various work sites.

There will be an Open Day at the Circus in downtown Basseterre on April 1st and a Round Table discussion on ZIZ Television on Thursday April 7th, the topic for this discussion is ‘Building Resilience to Climate Change in the Water Sector’.

Staff from the Water Services Department, accompanied by staff from other ministries will collaborate on an island wide ‘Water-Cade’ on Friday April 8th. The objective of this Water-Cade is to highlight and promote the sustainable use of our water resources. A thirty (30) minute stop-over will be made in several communities.

On Saturday, April 16th from 7 AM to noon staff of the Water Services Department will be offering a guided hike to the Wingfield Water Source. The meeting point will be at the Wingfield Estate Yard. All are encouraged to join in the hike. Special provision will be made for 2 students from each of our twenty six (26) Primary Schools to take the hike and engage in a tree planting exercise within the Wingfield Watershed.

To register please call the department at telephone number 466-3070.

Last year in my ministerial message I said the following and I quote:

‘In St. Kitts-Nevis, the ultimate source of water is from rain. As the rain falls onto the land, some of it is evaporated or used by plants, some of it runs off the land into the sea and some of it infiltrates into the ground and is stored in groundwater aquifers.

The growing threat of climate change means that rainfall patterns are changing and that sea levels are rising. This is a serious threat. We must invest in adaptation to ensure that our water system is resilient enough to cope with the threat’ – unquote.

Those words now seem prophetic because of the historic drought and inconvenience experienced by our residents for the past nine (9) months. Livelihoods were threatened as the crops of farmers wilted in the fields, local bottling plants struggled to maintain production and the tourism plant experienced shocks characterized by rationing at nights and suspension of water to cruise ships.

My ministry responded promptly by investing in several emergency projects to bring relief to residents. A $200,000.00 water supply improvement project brought relief to the residents of Saddlers who suffered for extended periods without running water at the peak of the drought. A well was re-commissioned in Lodge Village and a pump was installed at Cedar Grove along with other system improvements island wide, aimed at bringing relief to our residents. These interventions reflected an accumulated cost of over $500,000.00.

Several short term and medium term projects are underway or will commence shortly to address the water deficit.

The Deep Well Drilling Project undertaken by Bedrock Exploration and Development (BEAD) LLC which was signed in January 2015 a few weeks before the last General Elections in February 2015 has to date not positively identified the best sites for drilling and as such has not delivered any water to our distribution system. This $14 M project should have already added another 2 million gallons of water per day to our distribution system.

Owing to the delays in the Deep Well Drilling Project our Government has therefore decided to procure the additional services of Ocean Earth Technologies (OET) to conduct a parallel project in order to provide another 1.0 million gallons of water per day in order to augment the Basseterre system which includes Lower Half Moon, Conaree, Bird Rock, Frigate Bay and the South East Peninsular areas.

OET has experience in St. Kitts having done Phase I of an Hydro-geologic Evaluation of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer which it concluded in September 2009 under the Global Environmental Facility – Integrated Watershed and Coastal Area Management or as it is affectionately called the GEF-IWCAM Project.

My Ministry has already sought the approval of the Cabinet to possibly relocate to Basseterre and retrofit the Reverse Osmosis or Desalination plant which has been lying idle at the La Valle Project for over ten (10) years. Notwithstanding I am advised that this is in apparent good condition.

I am further advised that this plant has the capacity to produce 1.0 million gallons of water per day (1.0 MGD) and will thus build resiliency to our present mix of source water as sea water is considered to be drought-proof.

A potential site in Basseterre to accommodate this relocation has already been identified as my Ministry strongly believes that the utilization of this idle plant at La Valle particularly at this time must be in the best public interest.

Very soon my Ministry will also embark on a $600,000.00 Water Supply Improvement Project to build redundancy in the Phillips to Mansion water distribution system. Excess water from the Mansion Well will be pumped all the way to Phillips and Molineaux. This project will address the intermittent supply now being experienced within those communities.

Upon completion of the said project, farmers and other interests at higher elevations including the CARDI Research and Demonstration Farm also the Primate Research Facility at Estridge are all expected to experience an improvement in the reliability of their water supplies.

My Ministry is committed as well to providing piped water access to all homes in St. Kitts as part of our “Universal Access to Water Project”. To this end we have completed an island wide survey in order to determine the number and location of households without this basic amenity. We pledge to roll out this project shortly.

In closing, let me again remind you of the theme for this years’ celebration of World Water Day on March 22nd, to wit “Water and Jobs”. This theme should remind us of the connectivity between water and our livelihoods.

It should challenge us to work together to manage and utilize our water resources in a sustainable manner. Because failure to do so will threaten our very existence.

Please support us as we attempt to highlight the importance of water in our daily lives over the next month. Let us all resolve to take care of this vital but finite resource so that we can guarantee our livelihoods and that of generations yet unborn.

Let us commit to the philosophy of ‘Better Water for Better Jobs’

May it please you my fellow citizens and residents and may God continue to bless our beloved Federation. I thank you.

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