EDITORIAL: Addressing the water challenges


WHEN news agencies across the region and wider world reported that the Barbados-based Caribbean Disaster Emergency Management Agency (CDEMA) placed several regional countries, including Barbados, under immediate drought warning or watch in February of this year, there were many persons in this country who did not take the report seriously, as they were not quite feeling the effects of the prolonged water shortage, although residents of St. Joseph and parts of St. Andrew and St. John were suffering. Today though the situation is quite different; we are all, some more than others, living the reality of a lack of rainfall – with additional areas being affected by outages due to low water levels and many other areas experiencing low water pressure. 
In Barbados we have had just about 7.23 inches of rain for the year, testimony to the fact that a drought is upon us, and the Barbados Water Authority’s plans to construct at least two additional desalination plants in the north of the island seems to be needed now more than ever. The reality is though that such facilities will take some time to build and operationalise, with the end of 2018 looking like the most probable completion date. So in the meantime there is need for other ideas to be explored.
The fact is we need additional sources of water to supplement the sources of potable water across the length and breadth of this nation. Certainly, the additional sources of groundwater tapped into through the St. Philip Water Augmentation Project, providing as much as 3.5 million gallons of water per day to service St. Philip, Christ Church and even parts of St. John, is a help, but still not enough in a country that is said to be water scarce. 
We feel that Government must forge ahead with the proposed Barbados Water Reuse Programme recently announced by the Minister responsible for Water Resource Management, Dr. David Estwick, as it appears to be a long-term solution to the water woes in this country. That programme, as we understand it, is aimed at encouraging water harvesting for the purposes of flushing toilets and outdoor activities. We strongly feel that rainwater harvesting must become the norm in this country. 
With the hurricane season soon upon us, in a matter of six days to be exact, we should be looking to devise plans to capture the water that is likely to come our way, as this season is being predicted to be the most active since 2012. If we are to move in this direction, the onus is on Government to ensure that there are intensive education programmes in place to get Barbadians’ buy-in. One way of achieving that is by providing incentives to encourage rainwater harvesting. 
With this year’s Financial Statement and Budgetary Proposals yet to be delivered by Minister of Finance, Christopher Sinckler, it would serve Government well to see how they can incorporate rainwater harvesting initiatives into the personal allowances for income tax purposes, and also to give serious consideration to reinstating the purchase and installation of water storage tanks as one of the allowed deductions. If done, it could encourage more householders to purchase those tanks and put them to use, knowing that they would be able to claim back some of the money. 
We understand that Government is trying to reform the income tax system and reduce the number of deductions allowed for personal allowances, but the fact is that the cost associated with buying and installing water tanks can be quite high. For persons with already stretched budgets they cannot afford it, but wish they could to ensure that they have a steady supply of water.
We hope that these suggestions will be seriously considered, and hopefully implemented in short order.

Barbados Advocate

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