by Kevon Browne
St. Kitts and Nevis (WINN): Water conservation, scarcity, and wastage discussions continue, especially regarding water tariffs for the Federation.
Citizens of St. Kitts and Nevis pay $1.20 per 100 gallons for a monthly consumption of greater than 7,001 gallons; the experts have indicated that the power needed to supply the water effectively costs more than what consumers are paying.
“Take, for instance, many of you will have a bottle of water here, and you go to the supermarket, and you buy maybe a gallon and a half for $15 to drink. Meanwhile, the government is selling you 1000 gallons for $7.50, $20 minimum… In order to generate 1000 gallons of water, you probably have to use more electricity than $7.50, especially when you move towards desalination. So we need to have a conversation about the tariffs,” said the Minister of Water, Hon. Konris Maynard.
In addition, with a growing population and the effects of climate change, water resources are being strained.
The Economic Commission for Latin America and the Caribbean (ECLAC) has said that with “respect to freshwater resources, the Caribbean countries are amongst the most water-stressed globally. The World Resources Institute has identified seven Caribbean countries as having ‘extremely high’ levels of water stress.”
The countries include Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados, and St. Kitts and Nevis. The latter three are designated as water-scarce by ECLAC.
Minister Maynard strongly advised the general public to conserve water to protect the already scarce resource and keep water supply costs down.
“You use less water, your tariffs will remain low. [If ]you abuse and waste water, the tariffs will have to match that. So we continue to say that we are going to strongly encourage conservation by encouraging low tariffs for low usage, and we are going to discourage wastage by adjusting the tariffs accordingly.”
Following recommendations from the newly appointed Water Board, water tariffs would have to be adjusted.
With the adjustments to water rates in mind, Maynard also brought up another issue within the water services, leakages or what the officials may call non-revenue water.
“There is something called non-revenue water which … let’s say we produce ten gallons of water and we’re able to bill for six gallons – it means then that the four gallons is what you call non-revenue water. Our non-revenue water here in St. Kitts and actually around the region is very high. We recently had a water conference not only at the UN but also in Trinidad to deal with this issue of non-revenue water. A lot of it comes from leakages along pipelines.”
What is the government doing to help reduce water wastage from public infrastructure?
According to Maynard, the government is currently trying to secure a $40 million grant from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to help build out and update the water infrastructure.
“Over the next coming years, we are in the process of developing the plan or the rehabilitation of all the important water lines around the country. Later on, we will give some more details about a specific project that we’re trying to get when it comes to the Green Climate Fund that will assist us in the adaptation of our entire water structure. That is a 40 million US dollar project which we’re hoping to get as close as possible to in the not too distant future – that does take some time.”
But right now, the government is assessing what needs to be done on the government side in the short to medium term to help arrest leakage in its water infrastructure.
The Minister shared that tariffs would eventually hit the pockets of consumers whose water usage is high.
“A large amount of leakage comes from the customer side—two ways – one leakage in the house and two usage and not paying for the water. I want to encourage everyone to do all that you can to arrest the leaks that are associated with your property. Because as we have this discussion of [tariff] adjustments, those whose water bills and water consumption remain low will not really see any increase in their water tariffs over the long term. But [for] those whose homes have inordinate levels of leaks, your tariffs will then have to adjust to that eventually.”
Water users should be vigilant in their water use and take necessary measures to stop leakages and other forms of water waste in the home.
“If you have a home and you don’t know if you have any leaks one evening, maybe at 9 p.m., close off all things that use water in your house, including maybe your refrigerator if you have your refrigerator connected to the water line. Don’t allow anybody to use any water over the evening. Go to your meter and read your meter reading at that time. So let’s say that it’s 9 p.m. in the night, don’t use water for a few hours while you sleep. This is the best time because nobody is using the water. In the morning, before you start using the water again, go and read your meter again. If the meter reading is different, it means you have a leak. It means something in your house is leaking. Get your plumber to check it out to assist in that.”
If the Federation could cut back on water usage by 20%, we would have enough water for everyone in St. Kitts and Nevis.
However, there is hope that another 500,000 gallons of potable water will be available soon if the current well drillings succeed.
“We are hoping that the last repairs are now completed or being completed on the rig to drill the well in Cayon so that we can add close to 500,000 gallons of water per day to that particular area. It has been quite some time in terms of the repair every time that they have done some repair. They find another issue because of the long time that the rig has been left abandoned here over the past couple of years.”
Minister Maynard highlighted much of the repairs and upgrades needed in the Utilities Sector in the Federation.
“We have been having to deal with a number of issues of neglect across many of our utilities; for instance, in energy, there has been no investment in fixed capacity over the seven years of the last administration. There has been no investment in water; there has been no investment in the interior road network system over the last couple of years. And so all of those things are coming to bear, and we’re trying to deal with them.”