Who is really in charge of WATER in Barbados?

Should Barbados ration water?

Perhaps we should start fixing the pipes too!

Something is fundamentally wrong with our decision-makers’ brains, there seems to be a fault in their logic and reasoning area.

It`s Tuesday Morning, 1:30am, yet sleep eludes me, because something is bothering me. I took my usual trip to the bathroom and and without much thought depressed the tank lever and the toilet was flushed; a function we take for granted and other Caribbean countries, even those with rivers cannot, because of drought caused by climate Change.

Jamaica, Trinidad and even Guyana with their rivers have being experiencing dry taps and saw it fit to ration their water supply.

People, thanks to Global Warming, droughts in one area and flooding in others will be the norm so get used to it. A Growing population, urbanisation, deforestation, global climatic changes and pollution are some reasons for the increased pressure on the existing water bodies. Population expansion is the single biggest reason behind the increased pressure on fresh water resources. Water consumption has almost doubled in the last fifty years and naturally, per capita availability of water has steadily decreased.

Broken main left running and unfixed for 5 days in 2007. Has the response improved since then?

I have heard lots of talk on Barbados not being a water scarce country so I will inform the uninformed that water is a finite commodity. If a country has less than a thousand (1,000) cubic metres (m3) per capita per year it is designated a Water Scarce Country. Barbados’ available water resources are currently rated by the FAO at (390) Cubic Metres per person. One cubic metre is equivalent to 220 gallons.  We are adjudged to be the fifteenth water scarce country in the world.

Though approximately 70 per cent of the earth’s surface is covered by water, only 2.5 per cent of it is fit for drinking. The rest is all salt water, which fills up the vast expanse of the oceans and seas — unfit for human consumption. Why then in 2010 are we are still flushing expensive potable water down our toilets and using it for agriculture.

Common sense also tells me that the BWA should have long ago been encouraging persons to conserve water and start water rationing.

Logic suggests to me that the BWA is leading the Minister responsible for The BWA rather than the Minister leading the BWA.

This modus operandi can only lead to poor judgment and chaos, as well as poor decision-making. Thus it’s like a case of a Private  leading a troop into battle, rather than the Commanding Officer. Will it take our Hotels, Schools and Restaurants’ taps to run dry before we act?

Deja Vu all over again: In 2008 Roshell Small hauled water to her home. In 2010: same old, same old.

Mr Lowe, this is an issue of National Security please show some leadership and stamp your authority. Our inability to imagine what we may be faced with and be proactive is because we have never experienced the stench from unflushed toilets.  Can someone tell me if the BWA management has employed an obeah man or some seer thus the delay of a water caution decision until March? Or is this another case of poor advice from technocrats to Ministers who are afraid to manage their ministers for fear of been accused of micro-managing.

Mr Lowe  can you please pilot legislation as your legacy, so that all homes can be encouraged through a tax rebate to install water tanks for water harvesting.

Finally I genuinely recommend the reading of the Biblical parable of the Ten Virgins (Matthew 25:1-13) to those responsible for the managing of our water supply.

Kammie Holder


Filed under Barbados, Environment

28 responses to “Who is really in charge of WATER in Barbados?

  1. John

    Check the Senn Report 1946 ….

    … the Water Resources Study of 1960’s, 1970’s and 1990’s …..

    .. and you will see what the finite limit is projected to be.

    Then look at the Social and Economic report of 2005 and observe the projected limit being reached in the mid 1990’s ….

    …… predicted from the 1970’s ….

    …. and you will realise in just what sort of a mess the policies of our economic gurus have placed our country.

    Droughts and dry spells just show up the lack of understanding our leaders have of the physical processes that determine our survival and growth.

    Lord have mercy.

  2. reality check

    good article Kammie

    The other water advisor on BFP, John has been harping on this issue for several years.

    Ideas such as peeing when you are showering, seperate flush buttons for number one and two have been implemented all over the world in many countries.

    Unfortuneately, a country is only as good as its leadership and Barbadians will have to start electing proactive, well educated leaders who are capable of executing good long term decisons for all Barbadians.

    Why don’t you and John combine forces and run as independents or green party reps so Barbadians have a chance of seeing real change.

  3. Johnny Postle @

    Toilet cisterns need to move away from complete flush systems to regulated flush systems. These systems are already incorporated in many countries of Europe and they are not even considered water scarced. Why are we so slow to some decisions and very fast to implement others. If this was tourist related, millions would be pumped to fix the problem.

    Also, why is the government not looking into the water wastage at the fish markets. Cheez-on-bread, when I was there last I visited one of the fish markets and was appalled to the amount of water running all day long on the flying fish.

    In addition, what is being done to tackle all the burst pipes and 100 old pipe mains on the island. Are these old pipes not to blame for the many bursts that occur on a regular basis.

    Furthermore, is there any educational programmes that speaks to water usage and the forms of wastage? I also believe the government can also make it affordable for Barbadians to purchase water saving devices and storage tanks at a reasonable price. I really do not know why everything darn thing in Barbados is so expensive.

  4. Green Monkey

    Humanure: the end of sewage as we know it?

    Laura Allen, a 33-year-old teacher from Oakland, California, has a famous toilet. To be honest, it’s actually a box, covered in decorative ceramic tiles, sitting on the cement floor of her bathroom like a throne. No pipes lead to or from it; instead, a bucket full of shavings from a local wood shop rests on the box next to the seat with a note instructing users to add a scoopful after making their “deposit.” Essentially an indoor outhouse, it’s a composting toilet, a sewerless system that Allen uses to collect her household’s excrement and transform it into a rich brown material known to fans as “humanure.”

    Allen is a founding member of an activist group devoted to the end of sewage as we know it. Her toilet recently made an appearance in the Los Angeles Times—which might explain why she didn’t seem surprised when I emailed her out of the blue to ask if I could use it.


    To find out if there were any way to create a composting toilet that wouldn’t make an average American recoil in disgust, I traveled to Bainbridge Island, a 35-minute ferry ride from Seattle. My destination was IslandWood, an outdoor learning center tucked into 255 wooded acres of a former tree farm that’s home to one of the country’s only large-scale composting toilets. Known as the Clivus Multrum M-15, this particular system can handle up to 36,000 uses per year.

    When I reached IslandWood, I was welcomed by Brian Bonifaci, the man responsible for maintaining the Clivus system. Dressed in Carhartt clothing from top to bottom, Bonifaci led me to the basement room where the compost was collected in two large, gray boxes. With sloping floors designed to make it easier to remove finished material, each bin was nearly 10 feet long and over seven feet high, with thick black pipes connecting them to four toilets sitting directly above.

    After showing me a trap door where finished compost could be removed, Bonifaci opened a hatch on the upper part of the box so that I could see what was inside: a giant mound of feces, toilet paper, and wood chips. It was level except for an upside down cone that had formed where the most recent deposits had dropped. But even though my face was practically in the box, I couldn’t smell its contents—an exhaust fan was constantly pulling fresh air into the bin and out a vent on the roof so that no odors could leak into the room where I was standing. (The same fan also pulled air down the toilet so the smell couldn’t escape upwards into the bathroom.)


  5. bp

    Please be advised that the gallon that you are referring to is the Imperial gallon that almost nobody uses. The gallon that most people use is the Us Gallon, of which there are 264 in a cubic metre.

  6. TheNickster

    No word on desalination? sea salt being Barbados’s next great export, or if the ministers are too afraid to compete with the large corporations at least use the salt internally, one less thing to import.

  7. Anonymous

    Arnie Walters will fix it !

    At least we know he fixed de Guyanese !!

  8. Politically tired

    The Nickster is right, we need more desalination plants, maybe it ought to be built into the building code for hotels/condo’s etc. Does the Four Seasons project have one? I doubt it.
    I know of some Canadians here who imported Composting toilets a few years back, OK, but not overly impressed.
    The BWA seems inefficient, a lot could be done by them to help with water shortages, purely responding to information re bursts etc would help. A burst near us was reported four times, each time they ‘didn’t know’ about it, so information not being passed on & therefore delays in repairs with huge amount of wastage.
    Car washing at standpipes? ban it, but how do you enforce it? a neighbour washes his car every morning, about 30 mins of running water, last week no water from Sunday evening till Wed’ morning, he drove to a neighbouring area to wash the damn car………..we all need to be made more aware of water usage, water here is cheap compared to some countries, too many people take it for granted & don’t realise how precious it is.

  9. BFP

    Good thoughts Politically tired… but we don’t have a building code.

    We have an “advisory” that has zero force in law. Four consecutive governments including the current one have promised a building code that is law, but they also promised integrity legislation too so don’t hold your breath.

  10. Kammie

    The blog as a means of informing our leaders of our feelings cannot be under stated. I say to all leaders ignore the blogs and suffer fate of ignorance. Depreciation of the political of any member of parliament is not my goal. The elicitation of conversation and ideas is all I seek from persons who know the importance of Country over partisan politics.

  11. Pingback: Global Voices Online » Barbados, Trinidad & Tobago, St. Vincent: Water!

  12. St George's Dragon

    Firstly Government should be looking to reduce water demand. One quick win would be to allow the use of grey water in toilet flushing etc. Can you believe that the authorities still don’t always allow it even while they enforce the installation of compulsory rainwater storage tanks in all new buildings? Crazy! What are you meant to use the rainwater for?
    The second thing would be to ban the import of toilets, taps and showers which are not water saving rated.
    Desalination plants work but they use ridiculous amounts of electricity. This would result in increased imports of oil for electricity generation – bad for foreign currency reserves – also bad for the emission of CO2, a greenhouse gas which we should be seeking to reduce. Desalination should be the very last resort. Also, please don’t think that a plant like this will produce useful salt. It would actually pump large volumes of high salt concentration water back in to the sea, possibly contaminated with heavy metals. Just the thing to be doing when we are worried already about the state of our reefs and tourism.

  13. Crusty

    St George’s Dragon says:

    “One quick win would be to allow the use of grey water in toilet flushing etc. Can you believe that the authorities still don’t always allow it…”

    Question: how can they NOT allow it if we don’t have
    a building or plumbing code?

    “The second thing would be to ban the import of toilets, taps and showers which are not water saving rated.”

    Banning is easy. Enforcing the ban is a bit harder.
    Enforcement is the perennial problem in Bim.

    “It would actually pump large volumes of high salt concentration water back in to the sea, possibly contaminated with heavy metals.”

    From the reference: http://www.answers.com/topic/water-desalination

    “Seawater, brackish water, and fresh water have different levels of salinity, which is often expressed by the total dissolved solids (TDS) concentration. Seawater has a TDS concentration of about 35,000 mg/L, and brackish water has a TDS concentration of 1000–10,000 mg/L. Water is considered fresh when its TDS concentration is below 500 mg/L”

    The Barbados desalination plant uses brackish water as its feedstock. As stated above, brackish water is something between fresh and salt. Another reference suggests that about as much water becomes part of the waste stream as passes through the filters. So the waste water could be expected to have less than 35,000 mg/L TDS, even if the input brackish water was at the high end 10,000 mg/L TDS and all of it was left in the waste water. That waste water would contain 20,000 mg/L TDS.

    Contamination with heavy metals suggests addition of
    something not already in the water. In reality, any existing heavy metals are just concentrated in the waste water stream. Coral does not provide much lead or tin, so any detected is likely to be human introduced at the farm yard or factory drain. I could not find any references to heavy metal in Barbados ground water using a google search.

  14. Politically tired

    At BFP, if we had a building code you would have found our builder shredded & hanging out to dry at Dodds right now…………

  15. Bajan George

    There’s no way to avoid building desalination plants in Barbados. The problem is, where to discharge the brine plumes from these plants?

    Studies must be done to calculate the best point of discharge into the ocean. The concentrated brine plume must be carried away from the reefs, and hopefully not contaminate fishing grounds.

    I can’t even imagine what any heavy metal concentrations in these plumes would do to the ocean ecosystem over time.

  16. John


    Assume for the moment that rain water first hits land with zero mg/L TDS and that it acquires dissolved solids as it makes its way back to the sea.

    Make another assumption that it acquires very little dissolved solids until it hits sea level and starts mixing with the sea water (35,000 mg/L) to produce brackish water (say 5000 mg/L).

    In trying to determine what effect the desal plant ….

    …. really just a glorified purification plant ….

    …. think about what volume of fresh water from inland rainfall would be required to produce a fixed volume of brackish water.

    The simple answer, I think ….

    …. but I could be wrong ….

    ….. is that 6 litres (0 mg/L TDS) of inland rain water mix with 1 litre of sea water (35000 mg/L) to produce 7 litres of brackish water (5000 mg/L)

    …. or, for every 7 million gallons of water produced by the plant, 6 million of its input have to be close to pure rain water.

    The question seems to be why not extract the 6 million gallons of rain water further inland and avoid completely the need for purification?

    I think the answer is ….. well …. you can’t because Warrens and other heavy developments in the area have rendered the rain water useless for human consumption without purification ….

    …. hence the need for the purification plant.

    It seems kind of dumb …..

    ….. shortsighted perhaps is the more politically correct word …..

    …. to pollute the 6 million gallons of rain water in the first place …..

    …. especially since Barbados is recognised as a water scarce country.

  17. Thewhiterabbit

    Sometimes it is necessary to go back to the beginning. Who decided that less than 1,000 cubic meters a year equals a water scarce country? On what basis? It all sounds very political to me, as in calling oneself water scarce makes it easier to get certain grants and concessions. What are the real water needs per person in Barbados, meaning how may cubic feet per year do Barbadians want to use in order to not feel like pioneers or third world refugees? How much water in Barbados is recycled? If you live above the source of water for the used aquifers, all the water that goes into your sewerage well is by default recycled. Was that recyling factored into the figures for Barbados? It is estimated that something more or less close to 50% of water pumped by WA does not reach a meter. Some is lost to standpipes (but that could be calculated by metering a statistically significant number of standpipes just to calculate how much is lost there) but most is lost in leaks. One quick way to significantly increase available water is to repair leaks. If the leak happens to be above the level of the used aquifer, even the leaked water is recycled. Is the water from the various sewerage treatment plants sent back up the hill to be used as irrigation water for agriculture in areas above the used aquifers and hence recycled? Another quick way to increase water supply. While water from rain is finite, but varying, it is often not necessary to consider high expense, high tech solutions. First, recalculate to determine if the figures used actually make sense. Second, recalculate to take into account very real recycling that is currently on-going. Third, repair existing infrastructure. Fourth, increase recycling at every opportunity. Fifth, stop having so many children who will put additional strain on the resource. Sixth, only when all of the above have failed should we consider high expense, high tech solutions.

  18. John

    In a 1 in 15 drought year, the available water resources is 156,227 cubic metres per day.

    For an average rainfall year, 60 inches, this quantity becomes 249,046 cubic metres.

    Source available on internet and listed below.

    It seems sensible/responsible to plan for the extreme case and not put a load on the supply which it is well known it cannot bear.

    Assuming a population of 270,000 in Barbados that means that there is 0.58 cubic metres per day available per person in the extreme drought year.

    This translates to 0.58 x 365 = 211 cubic metres per year in that 1 in 15 drought year.

    The report also states that “According to current information from the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), the total abstractions in 1999
    and 2000 (from 21 public water supply wells and 2 spring sources) fell down to 140,909 m3/day (31MGD) from a 1996 and 1997 high of 159,091 m3/day (35 MGD).”


    Table 1 – Breakdown of Available Water Resources

    Report on
    Integrating Management of Watersheds
    and Coastal Areas in Small Island Developing States of the
    The Barbados National Report
    Leo Brewster ( MSc)
    Deputy Director
    Coastal Zone Management Unit
    Ministry of Environment, Energy & Natural Resources
    John B. Mwansa (PhD)
    Manager of Engineering (ag)
    Barbados Water Authority
    September 2000
    Revised August 2001

  19. Kammie

    John,this is useful information do contact me via my email caanew@hotmail.com. I share this information with the Public so do contact me.

  20. bp

    Barbados’ 166 square miles is about 100000 acres. With a population of 270000, this works out to .37 acres per person. An inch of rainfall on an acre works out to about 102 cubic metres. Using 60 inches per year, this comes to 2270 cubic metres per person per year.

  21. Crusty

    John says:

    It seems kind of dumb …..

    ….. shortsighted perhaps is the more politically correct word …..

    …. to pollute the 6 million gallons of rain water in the first place …..

    True but how are you going to stop your car from
    leaving bits of rubber tyre on the road to be washed
    into the gullies? Or stop other distributed waste
    generation processes – like toilet suck wells.

    The solution to pollution is dilution – as told to me
    by an industrial chemist many years ago. Trouble
    is that it becomes expensive to reconcentrate.

  22. Dennis Jones (aka Living in Barbados)

    Can anyone explain why Barbados was so forward looking in making it almost mandatory for houses and buildings to use solar power but did not see the need to make water harvesting a must?

  23. John

    March 4, 2010 at 4:42 am
    Barbados’ 166 square miles is about 100000 acres. With a population of 270000, this works out to .37 acres per person. An inch of rainfall on an acre works out to about 102 cubic metres. Using 60 inches per year, this comes to 2270 cubic metres per person per year.


    …. you need to allow for losses due to evapotranspiration, ~80% and runoff, ~ 10% …

    …. check Senn 1946 in Public Library.

    Also, not all the land of Barbados serves as catchment for the supply wells, just what is upstream.

  24. John

    ……. also, 1/7th of Barbados, The Scotland District, is largely unused for water supply.

    Greenland is another example of shortsightedness …..

    …. being politically correct this morning.

  25. Kammie

    Today is the 8th of March and still no word from Barbados Water Authority on water conservation. Heads need to roll under a Green Party, Dr Denis Lowe would have be kicked out long time ago.

  26. What happen to your Nation column?

  27. BFP

    Ian, George left me something about HEAT using one of your photos without attribution and after you called them about it, they never publicly apologized or gave you credit. They let the whole thing drop. Is this true?


  28. Yeah, I called and said if they do it again, just list my link – not my name or the name of the blog – my URL! But they never used a next photo from me, strangely enough it was about Graeme Hall…