Wrong pricing signal when it comes to water in Barbados

David Staples, Director of Williams Industries Inc. believes “we have the wrong pricing signal in Barbados.”

He told this to the audience at the forum concerning “The Future of Water in Barbados – Addressing a key Development Challenge” facilitated by the Centre for Resource Management Environmental Studies (CERMES) at UWI. “Look at your water bill, internet, cellular and electricity… look at which is the biggest. It is not your water bill and the one you think you could [not] live without… The pricing signal; all of the economists will tell you that pricing signals are important for people to make decisions.”

Staples believes, “There are technical fixes which are financially viable which we think will get us through the future. We looked at the water problem as simple engineers; therefore, how you can obtain sufficient water supply for a reasonable cost going forward and minimal environmental impact.”

“Serious people who talk about water in Barbados believe there may be enough water and that it is a distribution problem. It is important to realise that 50 per cent of what we extract – we desalinate; we gather from whatever source is lost. What are the alternatives that can be used to successfully supply the amount of water we use? We also understand that weather is changing and it is uncertain. We believe that we need to be conscious of climate change and it impacting us, but we don’t know in which direction, thus, we need to be very cognisant of where we put our money.”

He highlighted, “BWA has been working hard and has done a good job of replacing the old mains, replacing faulty valves, repairing leaking tanks; all of the things that were needed to reduce that 60 per cent loss to an acceptable 20 -25 per cent loss. Everyone wants to conserve – they get all excited about it and then they forget about it! The conservation we are talking about is technical fixes, for example, if you replace 60 thousand toilets in Barbados with low flow toilets, 100 thousand faucets, it is about one to two million gallons a day of water that is basically new water produced. That is a number of technical fixes that don’t require someone to consciously be turning off the tap. That combined with the correct pricing signal we believe will have a huge impact.

“Water Reservoirs, all of the water that falls in the East Coast runs into the sea; it is a huge amount of water. There are opportunities for reservoirs which can carry us through a lot of dry seasons and they’re cost effective.

“Expansion of fresh water production, a project that has gone forward in St. Philip – it is now producing three million gallons of water a day. There is enough fresh water to produce up to ten million gallons a day. There may well be other aquafers like that. So there is fresh water there that we have not currently tapped – we see this as an option. In terms of brackish water , desalination which is about 20 per cent of the cost of seawater desalination, we think there is potential to increase that.”

He concluded, “Through these combinations of things we believe that there is a methodology for preventing future drought [water challenges].” (NB)

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