EDITORIAL - Update needed on water reuse initiative
What is the latest on the proposed plans to establish a water reuse policy in this country?
That is a question we are hoping that the relevant authorities at the Barbados Water Authority can answer, or at least shed some light on.
It was early January last year that an announcement was made by the Minister responsible for water resource management, that the Infrastructure Committee of Cabinet had met with the view of establishing a water reuse policy for this country; and that the policy was intended to be a conservation strategy to allow Barbadians to utilise harvested water for purposes that potable water are not necessary. But since that disclosure was made, now just over 19 months ago, we have heard little about if that policy has been given the go-ahead, and if, so when it will be implemented.
It was thought that with all the challenges the country had been facing with water availability last year, that concerted steps would have been taken to move such a policy forward and keep the public apprised of what the goals to be achieved would be. We thought it prudent when we heard of consideration being given to such a policy, that the powers that be would have moved with alacrity to formally introduce the proposal to the public and seek to educate them about the benefits of reusing water, so that they could get their full buy-in on the matter. The fact is that if efforts can be made to reuse water for such things as flushing toilets, which can use gallons of precious potable water with every flush, we would be able to save millions of gallons of drinking water for years to come.
As we understand it, the idea behind this water reuse policy would be to separate potable water usage from non-potable water usage, and this would, it was also indicated, require a colour coding system to be created and re-plumbing of properties to be executed. This would no doubt be a costly exercise for the average householder, but it would certainly help to ensure that there is absolutely no possibility that the two water supplies would mix, as contamination of the potable water supply could result in serious health and sanitary problems that could prove challenging for persons.
Now at the time of the announcement, it was also stated that a team including the Barbados Association of Professional Engineers, was to meet to work on designing that colour coding system and the technical matrix needed to put the policy into practice. It is hoped that the team has indeed been meeting and that they have formulated a plan to take this initiative forward.
The fact is there are households and even businesses with large outflows of water, for example the water generated from washing laundry and even doing dishes, that can be collected and repurposed to water our gardens, flush our toilets and wash vehicles as well. But to get persons to engage in water harvesting for such purposes, may very well require Government to create incentives for them to do so, for as we noted it can be costly.
We all well remember the requirement to install water tanks; do you not wonder how many of those tanks actually work? A cursory glance at them would suggest that they are connected and functioning, but if we were to put them to the test, it is likely that not even half of them would be given a passing grade. We certainly do not want the same fate to befall the water reuse initiative should it come to fruition, and therefore urge the Ministries of Water Resource Management and Finance, if they have not already done so, to meet and discuss what incentives can be created to encourage persons to harvest and reuse water, rather than relying so heavily on our limited and dwindling water supply.