Water Crisis In Barbados – Part 1: A Bird’s Eye View

In this first of a series of articles on the Water Crisis In Barbados, our favourite writer named John sets the stage for later installments. Before one can understand water on this small island of ours, it is necessary to understand the topography of Barbados…

1. Understanding the topography of Barbados – A bird’s eye view.

The internet puts at our disposal powerful visualization tools to help us understand many of the challenges we face in our daily life. Some of the first principles we learn at school can be used to understand and appreciate what we regard simply as a wonder of nature without ever removing the wonder of the experience.

Satellite imagery puts in our hands an easy and readily available way of visualizing the topography of Barbados, or any land mass. We can look at Barbados from all sorts of different angles and from all sorts of different positions. Google Earth and Nasa World Wind provide anyone with the means of flying over any part of Barbados. The images may be a few months out of date but reflect the appearance of the surface of Barbados accurately.

If you don’t already have Google Earth or Nasa World Wind try downloading them now.

Here is what Barbados looks like from a satellite as provided by Google Earth when viewed in relation to its immediate surroundings.


Barbados is the furthest east of the islands of the Lesser Antilles and is the highest point on a ridge formed by the motion of two tectonic plates, the Atlantic and the Caribbean plates. The chain of islands to its west are volcanic because of the same motion of two plates but Barbados is not.


We can get closer by zooming in and we begin to see the shape that we know so well.


Satellite imagery allows spot heights to be measured accurately and with these the computer can calculate a surface, called a digital elevation model or digital terrain model. Over this surface the computer can then drape the image it has acquired and we can view the island as it exists in three dimensions. We can ask to see the island from different angles or form different heights.

So, if we wanted to see what the Scotland District looked like we could go a few miles north east and view it from a point in the air which we choose. A view of the Scotland District looks like this…


Barbados is relatively flat, the highest point being just over 1100 feet above sea level. What Google Earth lets us do is to emphasise the elevation by up to a factor of 3 thus the same view would look like this…


A topical view of the Scotland District is of Bathsheba and the Hillcrest area. Here is what it looks like using satellite imagery. The image is produced using an vertical emphasis of 1…


If we wanted to see what the Scotland district looked like from the St. John Side, again, it is possible to change the view and what we get looks like this. The elevations have been emphasized by a factor of 3 times as will all of the views presented, unless specifically stated…


If we chose to look at the island from the South so we could see the South Coast, it would look like this…


If we wanted to get an idea of what the “St. George” valley (most of it is in St. Philip and St. Michael) looked like, we could look down towards Bridgetown from a point in the air above St. Philip…


….or we could look up along the valley towards East Point from a point in the air above Carlisle Bay…


The Valley is difficult to see because the Christ Church Ridge, or Dome on the right of the picture is relatively flat, rising to its highest height at Fort George, 398 feet.

The west coast can be viewed from the air as well and here is how it would appear. The major Gullies are there to be seen, including those that terminate in Holetown…


Finally, the island can be viewed from the north and St. Lucy inspected from the air. Here is what it would look like…


The purpose of this first article is to introduce the visualization tools easily, and freely available on the net and to get an idea of what the island looks like in relief. Following articles will look at how the island is broken down into catchment areas for water so that supply wells can be sited and available ground water can become available for use.


20 responses to “Water Crisis In Barbados – Part 1: A Bird’s Eye View

  1. Bajanboy

    I am looking forward to reading more about this. I do not think there is a water problem in Barbados that technology, conservation and better management (especially) cannot solve.

  2. Rumplestilskin

    This looks like fun. Now, how about the desalination plants that need to be built in the South, West and North East? Or is that for after your (looks to be good) article?

  3. What about rainwater catchment systems for houses and buildings? How much is this already practiced in Barbados? Using rainwater and grey water systems for toilets, watering yards, etc. can save a surprising amount of water…

  4. John

    New construction after sometime in the 1990’s, can’t remember which year, once it was over a certain size, was required to have a storage tank in the plans submitted to Town and Country.

    There is a relation between the square footage of the building and the volume stored.

    The problem is that nobody told the householders what to do with the water they catch so they are left on their own to figure it out. Many probably breed mosquitoes.

    Also, we do not have a recent history of storing rainwater so issues of treatment would be unknown. I know of a few houses where there is a dual plumbing system, one for stored rainwater to flush toilets the other for BWA water for kitchen and bath. Some people are doing it.

    And yet, I don’t think I have ever been in a plantation yard without seeing the evidence of water storage from a bygone era. We have forgotten about this.

    …. large scale catchments will probably serve litle purpose as the underground aquifers depend on the same water to be replenished.

  5. John


    The problem with desalination is its cost.

    We are into building houses as a major plank of our economy.

    Yet, houses require water.

    There is always the possibility of catchment of rainwater but if desal is to be used to supply the extra water, it cannot be a t a price which will send the price of the house skyward.

    One only needs to look at the comment of Mr. Atwell in the Nation back in April when construction of the dam at Farmers to supply water to the Apes Hill Golf course. Think it was April 30.

    My interpretation of the comment was that it did not make economic sense to provide desalinated water for the development. So it would seem that desalination is too expensive for Barbados.

    This dam is a pretty interesting project. It looks as if the dam is in the Trents catchment area and will subtract from the water available to the BWA at their pumping station.

    Time will tell.

  6. John

    Sorry, got the date wrong.


    Date June 02, 2006
    Brief WATER HOLD
    by maria bradshaw

    A massive reservoir which will supply hundreds of gallons of water daily to the multi-million-dollar Apes Hill, St James, golf course project, is under construction at Farmers, St Thomas.

    The first of its kind in Barbados,


    A MASSIVE RESERVOIR which will supply hundreds of gallons of water daily to the

    multi-million-dollar Apes Hill, St James, golf course project, is under construction at Farmers, St Thomas.

    The first of its kind in Barbados, the actual reservoir will be 14 acres while the collection area is 400 acres. The reservoir is slated to cost $8 million and will utilise water from three springs in the area, as well as rain water.

    A dam is also being built, as well as a pump house.

    In an interview, Project Manager Philip Atwell told WEEKEND NATION that apart from providing water to the golf course, the construction of the reservoir will also significantly reduce flooding in the flood-prone Holetown, St James, area.

    “This is the Scotland District so water runs off, but it does not go to

    St Andrew. It runs straight to a gully that runs into Holetown. The construction of the reservoir will mean that less water will be going to Holetown because during the rainy season it will be contained in the reservoir to be utilised on the golf course,” he explained.

    Atwell added that the reservoir, which was designed by engineer Andrew Hutchinson, will hold 65 million gallons of water, but this could increase depending on rainfall.

    The water will be channelled through pipelines to a pump hole in Apes Hill quarry. It will be pumped from there to a water hole on the golf course, the highest elevation point.

    From there the water could go wherever it was needed. A second, but smaller reservoir will also be built in the quarry at Apes Hill.

    During the construction process 250 000 cubic metres of clay woill be removed, but not dumped. Atwell said it would be utilised in other areas on site for beautification purposes.

    Yesterday, when a WEEKEND NATION team visited the area, several tractors and

    trucks were busily removing the clay.

    Atwell said that lotsof research was undertaken to ensure the feasibility of this project. And that the only other option was a desalination plant, but that would have been too costly.

    He said Farmers, with its many springs, had always been a water resource area which

    had a constant supply, even during dry spells.

    He said the project, which began in mid-April, was held up because a geologist from a United States-based company conducted testing and changed the first set of plans, even though it had received permission from Town and Country Planning.

    “The geologist said: ‘No, it would leak,’ so he pushed the project further up from the road and it also pushed up our cost because we have a lot more material to remove,” Atwell said.

    With the new plans, C.O. Williams will now widen Farmers Road and enhance the area with sidewalks.

    While they are expecting the project to be completed by September, that would now depend on the weather. The project manager disclosed that if rain starts to fall they would be forced to put the project on hold and begin again during the dry season next year.

    However, he said the dam will have a sluice gate which could be opened and closed and this would allow personnel to enter by boat so they could flush the area when needed.


  7. Hants

    It would be good if we develope a way to catch rainwater for flushing toilets.

    This may be a difficult proposition, but the huge quantity of water that floods London Bourne area in bay street could be trapped ,stored and used to flush the toilets in London Bourne towers.

    They could build an underground storage tank and pump the water to the building.

    When you see the volume of water going into the ocean from flooding in Barbados it makes one wonder why we can’t find a way to solve the water problems .

    Just my simplistic “layman’s” opinion.

  8. John

    I have come across on the net where Hong Kong I think actually stores freshwater in the sea!!!

    It seems to be along the lines suggested by Carl Moore where land is “reclaimed”, but not how we would imagine it being done.

    Need to find out a bit more about it.

    Flooding and run off are only problems in the wet season. You may find the flooding at London Bourne Towers happens fewer than 5 days out of the year.

    When it does, it is a problem but for 360 days it may be of little concern, ditto Holetown Speightstown etc.

  9. Jackie O'Neal

    Water shortages and treatments are a problem the world over due to what is now mans complete lack of forsight and greed but was initially ignorance.

    However upset we may become over what we have created for ourselves, solutions are the only way out of this dilemma that we all face no matter where we reside on this planet.

    From the World satellite images that are now available to us, it can easily be seen how the actions of one nation can effect everywhere else on this Planet.

    We are all responsible, bar none, for our future health and wellbeing. Every action we perform as individuals and collectively effects not only ourselves but each other.

    There are no longer any excuses for ignorance. The information is available to us all in brilliant technicolour.

    Every time we poor gallons of insectacide, pesticide, fertilizer, household bleach to name just a few of the everyday chemicals that are poured into the Earth everyday, we are posioning not only the Planet but ultimately on the microcosmic level, ourselves. Yes, ladies and gentlemen, you, me, our parents, children, grandchildren, pets.

    How much clearer does it need to get.
    Treating the water is not the ultimate solution. Barbados was given the perfect filtering system in the form of it’s coral rock. It will take time for the land to heal itself but pouring more chemicals into it is not , I believe, the solution.
    Nature has a way of healing itself, but it takes time. There are many organic products available on the market to help with crop production. I know there are people on the Island who are knowledgable about these things and their expertise and knowledge should be utilized. Nothing happens overnight, it will take time but you got to start somewhere.

    Whilst trying to get permission to build 3 small wood houses on the east side of the Island I was told septic tanks would have to be installed for the waste water instead of suck wells. Permission was initially denied for this small project because it was thought the land was unstable and an engineer was hired to prove otherwise. Why would blasting the land to put in septic tanks be suggested. Surely the government should have up-to-date knowledge on advanced environmental solutions.

    It would be far cheaper to the homeowner, and far less of an impact on the environment and ultimately the water supply, which effects everyone on the Island, which after all is what we are talking about here if composting toilets were recommended instead. The high nitrogen content of the waste water from septic tanks is very damaging.
    I urge you to look at the web-site for http://www.biolet.com. A Swiss company who has been in the business of composting toilets since the 1960’s I believe. The toilets look like any other normal loo. No water is used. They are sanitary and the compost can be used for the garden beds. Before you all turn your nose up and move onto the next article quickly, remember we are part of nature. What we put into bodies effects what comes out.
    We have to learn to live in better balance than we have been if we are going to have any quality of life in the not too distant future. And if you cannot think of yourselves, then think of your children and what will be left for them.

    Technology and our modern way of life is a double edged sword. It has brought us many wonderful things and a more comfortable way of living. It has enabled us to see first hand through the use of satellite images, as an example, this marvelous Planet as a whole. It has the ability to heal as well as the ability to destroy. Which will you choose?

    Ultimately, the Planet will do whatever it needs to do to keep itself healthy. It has it’s own self regulating mechanism built into itself just as we as human beings do. So many people say the Planet needs to heal. She will do this with or without our help. Just observe the weather patterns. It is us, man, who needs to heal. We are interactive with this Planet not superior to it as so many people think.

    The earth is 70% water as is the human body. Reflect on this.
    What we see in the visable outside world is but a reflection of that unseen part which resides within us. A healthy productive Planet can provide all that is needed for a healthy human being.

  10. ian

    This is a very interesting article.I knew that Barbados was on the tectonic plates but, not that it was the only non volcanic isle in the lesser antilles.

  11. Plover

    All of these articles are extremely interesting, thought provoking and should be looked at very critically.

    Even In Canada our water situation is becoming critical and another factor is many of our huge lakes are becoming contaminated because of Development. Even though we have state of the art sewage treatment technology that is strigently controlled by Government water quality agencies the billions of gallons of treated sewwage and increasing daily that we need to discharge daily into our lakes and watersheds is taking a dreadful toll on the quality of lake water.

    There is a popular belief that no matter what is done we are all fighting a losing battle.Until population levels are controlled and in the case of Canada and other large nations immigration numbers reduced more and more houses will need to be built, land, industry, recreactional facilities required, with the cycle continuing. The concensus is no Government will make birth control mandatory nor in many instances control immigration numbers.

    I find it a very complex and troubling problem and when I look at the size of Barbados and see the huge development projects and so many golf courses all of which consume massive amounts of water and other natural resources. I say to myself if we in Canada are worrying about water and other natural resources running out and becoming contaminated God help Bim!

  12. in barbados it was a saying beaches,sun,and sands now looking at barbados from the sky, it is sea houses,hotels and nothing else the island is ugly truely pardise lost

  13. Thank you Maria Bradshaw for your very informative article on the development of the new reservoir now under construction by CO Williams which coinsides with the building of the Apes Hill golf course and high end real estate development.
    This only goes to show that Mr Williams and his group of futuristic entrepreneurs are not only thinking of the profitability of these massive projects they are undertaking but have taken the time to realise that protecting the environment and natural resources is of major importance to our little rock.
    I had the pleasure of being able to look upon the Apes Hill area from a very strategic location late last year. It truly is one of the most beautiful parts of the island and as I was taking pictures I couldn’t help but think to myself that I wanted to always be able to recapture that scene in years to come. However, I do understand the need for new landscape and change along with the fact that I know it will aid in enhancing our employment figures.
    My hope for this year and the years to follow is that pioneers of new ideas such as CO Williams will also look towards further innovative ideas to deal not only with our water usage but as to how we should effectively handle our waste and garbage disposal problems and start strategic planning for proper and efficient recycling for our island.

  14. Sentinel

    Why are “pioneers of new ideas” allowed to implement their projects without an impact study being done on the surrounding villages?
    From the time the “largest private sector development in the history of Barbados” got off the ground at Waterhall/Apes Hill, I had warned people in Orange Hill to look out for trouble. We were told time and again that our water supply was in an unsatisfactory position, yet the massive development at Waterhall/Apes Hill continues
    d and is moving full steam ahead. If residents in Orange Hill/Endeavour were vigilant, they would’ve realised that everytime there was a polo match at Waterhall, the water pressure in their area was down.
    If I am not wrong, the water main leading into the Orange Hill area comes through Taitts Martin gully and then to Waterhall. Where do you think the water is going to get to first? When the town houses and the foreigners who will live at Apes Hill really begin to tap into the same meagre water supply, which area do you think will suffer even greater? Where was/is the M.P. for the area in all of this? Has he become a “Missing Person” again?

    The “pioneer of new ideas” has done the people in the Baywoods a massive injustice!! Has anyone taken note of the huge amount of soil which comes over the top of the cliff/hill above the Baywoods area? Water never used to gush across the road in this area as it does now. The earth, watercourses in the now ‘developed” fields on top of the hill have been “moved to please”. By destroying the old watercourses, life for residents in the areas is miserable during heavy rainfall. Next time there is heavy rain, check the area to the south of the Baywoods Community Centre.
    Jobs are important, but why weren’t the residents in the area consulted when this development was being planned? Was the BWA consulted or did the powers that were consider the hardships which Barbadians would face because of these massive developments? In truth, the development at Waterhall seems to be really hauling away the water from Orange Hill residents.
    Please, somebody, speak up for us. Investigate our situation. Let justice prevail. Again, this is a situation in which the rich and mighty are having things their own way while the ordinary Barbadian is being deprived. SLAVERY ISN’T DONE YET!!!!!!! BACK TO THE STANDPIPE, AGAIN!!!!

  15. Hants

    @ Sentinel

    PREHAPS there will be new low income high rise buildings to house the residents of Orange Hill so that there can be expansion of the High end Tourism product.

  16. BansheeMan


    We know that COW and other large developers in the north have contributed Millions$$ towards the Northern Upgrades Project which will provide water for thousands of Bajans (like myself who live quite near to Apes Hill) while also supporting the various tourism development projects. Without NUP, many bajans will suffer without water.

    I don’t understand why the hate and venom. Foreign exchange is Barbados’ lifeblood, and while a few of the tourism projects are insensitive and at times hideous, the majority are well planned and offer so many benefits in terms of employment, capital expenditure and ongoing tourist “spend”.

    Apes Hill appears to have been well planned and executed to date. Take a drive and see. I have done so several times and no one stopped me or anything.

    I for one support any project which is sensitively done, respectful of the environment, and will benefit Barbados in the long-term.

    Theme-based projects that cater for tourists and locals such as Port St. Charles, Apes Hill, Kensington Oval, Oistins Bay Garden, etc. should be 110% supported by Government, full stop.

  17. We at Atmospheric Water Systems, Inc. provide absolutely fresh pure drinking water through units that harvest water vapor from the atmosphere. We market units that produce from 3 to 5,000 liters per day. All one needs is relatively high temperatures and humidity (e.g. Barbados) and electricity. This could be a partial answer to the water crisis in Barbados, and if any interest, we would welcome any inquires.

  18. Pingback: Waterless Toilets For Barbados – A Good Idea That Government Ignores « Barbados Free Press

  19. As a bajan living abroad take on news on Barbados everyday. We as a nation is in trouble, in trouble our people have lost it, living in cloud cookoo land, half with they heads in the sand the other half heads, in the cloud.
    If the time spent on non economics pursuits such as religions which adds nothing to our economy but despair and silly dreams for our people.
    If 50% of all churches were factories or businesses we would be better off by a mile.We are a nation who depends on foreigners for our livelihood.
    But still our young people who supposed to be so educated are killing, stealing and attacking the same people who are causing our survival on the streets of our island with guns. the tourist.
    Our politics and politicians. Since the passing of our Honorable leader David Thompson, everything seems to have stop in Barbados, their is a lack of vision, this is because the chickens are home to roost.
    I always though,this will happen, its just like employing a load of cooks to do a painting job, we are stuck in the groove because we the bajans who are too lazy to commit to management always allow a bunch of lawyers who no one seems to trust, to administer and run our country as we see they are not even good at what they suppose to be qualified for.
    Economically we are in trouble, whats next.

  20. Anonymous

    A good article for discussion and impacts many countries around the world as how we manage water supplies. Climate change has caused our historical dependency on expected rainfall to refresh our storage supply in limbo at times. Prudent management of our infrastructure is only now being realized as a necessity and understanding relationship of storage flows.
    Recently in Cattlewash a main broke , in fact it perhaps broke a few times and yes it was fixed and in fact BWA worked into wee hours to restore the flow. Very few houses have a reservoir backup system and how many of us have a method to use rainfall for sewage use or as someone pointed out the dryless toilet method. So many broken pipes over the island lead to wasted water as sometimes days go by to fix or trash allowed to block road drains such the water runs a new course in runoffs causing footing on houses to be broken and ground to be moved.
    Barbados is blessed to have rainfall filer though its rock such it is safe to drink but we need to find a way to use it wisely as we cannot assume rainfall will occur as expected with increasing demand.

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