Island wide Emergency Declared.
A year old drought has forced the government to declare a water-related emergency for all parts of the island for the next two months.
However, “present weather conditions are expected to continue well into the rainy season as rainfall trends seem to indicate,” said a spokesperson from the meteorological office.
“Right now we have below normal rainfall and the forecast indicates that the trend will continue,” the meteorological officer said.
The situation is gloomier than it looks despite steps taken by the government to reduce the impact of this dry period which began last year.
According to the Met office in Vieux Fort last month’s rainfall at Hewannorra was 31.8mm which is way below normal.
Records show that the average rainfall for that area was 79.3mm between 1973 and 2014.
In respect of the George Charles Airport, rainfall recorded there for last month was 58.4mm, just below what is considered normal for the month but much below the average rainfall for that area which from 1967 to 2014 stands was 92.6mm.
“We are in a long term drought. The outlook for the next three months is that we are looking at below normal rainfall for Saint Lucia,” the meteorological officer said.
This means that even in the rainy season the country’s rainfall would be trending below normal. This drab forecast has caused government to institute certain measures to safeguard against water wastage.
“The information presented to me by the Water Resource Management Agency indicates that Saint Lucia is currently experiencing a long-term meteorological drought,” the Minister for Sustainable Development and Energy, Dr. James Fletcher said on Wednesday.
“When we observe the rainfall and flow rates in the Cul de Sac, Roseau, Vieux Fort and Fond d’Or watersheds we notice similar declining trends. In fact, for the Roseau River, the flow rate is currently below the minimum recorded flows for the month of May, based on data going back to 1992. Generally, the river flow rates around the island, are below what we would normally see as end of dry season base-flow rates” . To make matters worse, because of the intense heat being experienced, the rate of evaporation had increased,” Fletcher said.
“As of May 11, 2015, the water level at the John Compton Dam was 81.6 inches below the spillway, or a little less than seven feet below the high point of the dam. We are roughly at the same point we were last year, but with faster rates of decline of our water levels. If we do not take action, we expect the water level to drop an additional 6.8 feet by the end of May and a further 12 feet by the end of June. This would be catastrophic,” the minister said.
The Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network has issued a drought warning for the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, the eastern part of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Kitts, Saint Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and northern Guyana. Due to the emergence of an El Nino, which often results in a drier dry season later in the year. The forecast is that islands in the South Eastern Caribbean like Saint Lucia that have existing water shortages may not see any improvement until the Hurricane or wet season starts.
The government is presently monitoring the water situation and has taken a few steps, which, according to Fletcher, it hopes will reduce the impact of the dry period.
For instance in the north of the island two intakes at Vanard and Ravine Poisson have been activated. These intakes had been decommissioned some years ago and were no longer supplying water. However, as a result of their re-activation, the government hopes to place an additional 1.5 million gallons of water a day into the system for treatment at the Theobalds Treatment Plant at Ciceron.
“Said Fletcher: These intakes are not immune from the dry season and their production will decline progressively as the drought continues. We will also reduce the rate of abstraction of water from the John Compton Dam by reducing the number of pumps operating. This will help to slow the dramatic declines in the water levels in the reservoir. “
“Very importantly, the technicians at WASCO, through an ongoing Non-Revenue-Water Reduction Programme, have identified 13 major leaks on the raw water line from the dam to the Ciceron Treatment Plant. These leaks are being repaired and when this is completed, we expect to save approximately 700,000 gallons of water per day which was previously going to waste,” Fletcher said.
He said that a water source in Deglos will be activated, with the installation of a portable treatment plant and public stand pipes. This, he added, will help relieve the pressure on residents in surrounding areas. WASCO will also install temporary public standpipes in some of the most affected communities around the island and, with the assistance of the Ministry of Health will install temporary water tanks in some of these areas.
“The community of Babonneau will also benefit from the activation of a supply of 500,000 gallons at least once weekly from the John Compton Dam, as far as practicable. This will augment the approximate 300,000 gallons per day that is being collected from the Talvern and Marquis intakes. Dynamic programmes will be instituted in Dennery, Soufriere, Choiseul, Laborie, Micoud and Vieux Fort. In the community of Pierrot, for example, six public stand pipes will be set up to allow residents to access treated water from an existing spring source.
The National Emergency Management Organisation, (NEMO), will be mobilized to assist with trucking water to communities where water is urgently required, the Minister said.
According to Fletcher, WASCO will also enlist the assistance of the mobile telephone service providers to facilitate text blast messages, and the television stations will be used to stream water update messages. The Government-owned media houses, NTN and Radio Saint Lucia, will continue to serve as the peoples official stations for information on the water situation.
However the Minister warns that for these measures to work and to ensure that the inconvenience to residents in all parts of our island is minimized, government would need the peoples full cooperation and support.
He cautioned against drinking water or potable water as it is called, which is obtained from WASCO’s system, being used for activities like washing of vehicles, or watering lawns or gardens.
“ Also, anything that will cause contamination of our water sources, like the washing of vehicles in rivers, should stop immediately. We have also noticed that in recent times, some people have been illegally tampering with WASCO’s infrastructure. In particular, some individuals have been opening and closing WASCO’s valves to deny others water while ensuring that they get water. This is illegal and should not take place. We appreciate that many are inconvenienced by the water shortage, but the solution should not be to tamper or interfere with WASCO’s system. Call WASCO and notify them of your problem and they will assist,” the Minister said, adding that WASCO will attempt to respond as best it can, given the availability of water and other resources, to minimize the discomfort and the inconvenience that will be felt.