by Eulana Weekes
St Kitts and Nevis (WINN): The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is currently experiencing water supply shortages due to a prolonged dry spell. As a result, the Nevis Water Department and the St. Kitts Water Services Department have implemented a water management strategy to ensure that water is contained during this time.
During a conversation with WINN FM on Friday, May 27, Hazel Brown- Public Relations Officer at the Nevis Water Department confirmed that there is a shortage of water on Nevis. Hence, the Nevis Water Department has issued a water management schedule to over 20 villages and is monitoring other areas for possible water supply issues.
Similarly, Mr. Cromwell Williams Hydrologist and Acting Water Engineer at the St. Kitts Water Services Department says there is a water shortage in St. Kitts and the Water Department has executed a Water Management Schedule as well. This includes the capital Basseterre, Cayon, Saddlers and Newton Ground.
In terms of the rationing, water is being turned off daily between 8:00 pm and 4:00 am in the affected areas of the country. This will continue until further notice.
The Water Department representatives indicated that their departments have been unable to supply enough water to meet the public’s demand due to the current dry spell.
Brown stated, “The Nevis Water Department has been experiencing difficulty in maintaining the water supply, mostly to the northern side of the island. There are groundwater wells that supply water to the water storage tanks. The tanks distribute water to the customers and during these extended dry spells when the water use rises (domestic use) above normal expectancy, it changes the pattern and once it changes the pattern, it negatively affects the Department’s ability to maintain the optimum water levels in the tanks.”
As it relates to St. Kitts, the Acting Water Engineer explained that in the city of Basseterre water demand continuously increases, hence the need for additional wells.
“We currently do have a water shortage, particularly in some areas more than others, starting with our capital Basseterre of course. The water demand has continuously increased over the years and unfortunately, we have not been able to keep up the supply with the demand. What that means is that, as time goes by and the demand for water increases, as we build more houses and developments on a whole, you have to also increase the amount of water that is available. For us in St Kitts, we have to drill additional wells to increase the amount of water that we get from the ground.”
Williams explained, “Ultimately, all of our water comes from rainfall. It means, therefore, that there is a wet season and a dry season. The dry season is in the first half of the year which means that, during that period we get less rainfall, and we therefore have less water available for people to use. Right now we are in May and the rainfall has been low. I think for April, we had less than one inch, which is perhaps less than half of what you would get on an average month.”
WINN FM spoke to three individuals who reside in affected areas of the country to comment on their experiences. A young mother on Nevis, indicated that the rationing of water has affected her daily lifestyle. She explained that sometimes the water is turned off before the scheduled time and returns later than the stipulated time. According to her, people can be late for work or school if they don’t plan properly. The woman expressed her frustration that in 2022 people are bathing from a bucket. She suggested that better measures be put in place during the rainy seasons so that customers wouldn’t have to suffer so much in the dry season.
A middle-aged man stated that he is not affected by the water rotation. He said he uses cistern water and is confident that he has enough water to carry him through the dry season.
Meanwhile, on St. Kitts, Deandra Carey, a resident of White’s Village, Upper Cayon said she has experienced many years of water supply issues. She said when water goes, her village is the last to receive a return of running water. She describes the situation as “ridiculous.”
“One of my biggest concerns is that Cayon is a growing community and it continues expanding at an alarming rate. One of the things about growing up in Cayon, is that this has always been a problem. “If it has always been a problem then where is the solution?” It has been said to buy or invest in cisterns. To me, that is a temporary fix for what has been a continuing problem. Cayon has its own source and yet the water is diverted to other places before it feeds Cayon first; that shouldn’t be.”
Carey added, “Sometimes water goes in Cayon and you’re not even aware that the supply is going to be interrupted. You get up, go to the pipe and turn on the pipe and there is nothing. Water is an essential resource. It is a basic need. It is a necessity and so, you cannot have a supply of water being interrupted and people are not notified or have no idea when the water will come back and how long you will be without it. ”
Carey further shared that being in self-quarantine last year without water was not a good experience. She added that a whole community should not have to stand by a dam in 2022, waiting to fill water. “Who feels it, knows it,” she stated.
Carey suggests that the Government provide duty-free concessions on materials that will help the people to store water efficiently.
Hazel Brown of the Nevis Water Department informed that the Water Department is working to improve the water catchment and supply on Nevis.
“The Water Department has been relatively active increasing the storage capacity of potable water in strategic locations on the island. We just did the Hamilton tank which added something more to the Hamilton area. In addition, there are ongoing discussions to improve and to add more water to the network. There are regional agencies that have been rendering assistance to further promote rain water harvesting; be it for agriculture or domestic use.”
Brown advised the general public to invest in and utilise water catchment facilities in and around their homes to store water. She mentioned that the water situation may improve during the Hurricane season, once there is increased rainfall.
Williams and Brown shared similar sentiments that conservation methods need to be put into practise. They suggested that customers pay close attention to their water bills for an excessive rise in the amount. The water representatives advised customers to check for leaks and overflowing toilets and attend to such issues in quick time. Williams in particular shared that a number of homes on St. Kitts have a water metre that is not working or inaccessible, which is not a true reflection of the customer’s bill. He said the department is hoping to rectify that issue as soon as possible. However, Williams explained that the permanent solution to the water shortage situation is drilling more wells and constructing desalination plants, which is converting seawater into freshwater.
Individuals are encouraged to improve their daily water conservation practises by using recycled water for lawns, monitoring domestic water use in the homes which includes baths, brushing teeth, washing dishes, clothes, and washing vehicles. Williams concluded that once everyone tries to conserve water, then there is a greater chance for each household to get a 24-hour water supply.