Warning: Water Woes Looming!

World Water Day was observed here and worldwide on Wednesday (March 22), with the global focus on the need for more action everywhere to ensure the precious resource is still available by 2050.

The universal theme for 2023 is ‘Accelerating the Change to Solve the Water and Sanitation Crisis’ with a sub-theme ‘Rainwater – Making the Invisible Visible’ and both apply to Saint Lucia and other Caribbean island-states.

WASCO, the Water Resources Management Agency (WRMA) and the Ministry of Agriculture arranged World Water Day activities here this week; and the Saint Lucia-based Caribbean Water and Sewage Association (CAWASA) was able to display and explain its Caribbean Sanitation (CARIBSAN) pilot project involving wastewater management.

CAWASA is also continuing a month’s long, multi-country series of four-day, two-phase workshops that started in January in Barbados, Belize, Grenada and Saint Lucia, on ‘Wastewater Management’ and ‘Wastewater Collection’.

Additionally, the United Nations (UN) World Water Conference held in New York on World Water Day – the first in 45 years — examined a World Water Development Report that identified several challenging factors affecting the Caribbean region’s water protection and development ambitions.

A Latin America and Caribbean Regional Water Action Dialogue has concluded that four major pillars of action were necessary: “Promoting human rights to water and sanitation; leaving no one behind; promoting regulatory and normative changes to ensure equitable and affordable access; and addressing water scarcity and promoting innovative practices such as rainwater harvesting.”

It also found that “Caribbean countries are amongst the most water-stressed globally”, pointing to the World Resources Institute (WRI) having identified seven island-nations — Dominica, Jamaica, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, Trinidad and Tobago, Antigua and Barbuda, Barbados and St. Kitts-Nevis — as having “extremely high” levels of water stress…”, with the latter three also being designated as “water scarce”.

But it also warns Saint Lucia and other countries not named that their worries are not over because weather, climate and environmental events and patterns in the region since 2021 leave no room for complacency.

Saint Lucians will not forget the November 2022 flash floods between Gros Islet and Castries caused by a relatively short period of rainfall.

WASCO, WRMA, CAWASA and the region’s governments and water utilities therefore simply have to find ways to ensure Saint Lucians and all other Caribbean citizens pay more attention to the dwindling of the world’s water reserves as a result of the global climate changes that are turning normal seasons on their heads worldwide.

The CARIBSAN project, backed by the EU INTERREG, and the AFD and coordinated by the Water Office of Martinique (ODE) with the support of CAWASA, is promoting a nature-based solution for treating wastewater using planted filters (Birds of Paradise flower) in Saint Lucia, Martinique, Guadeloupe, Dominica and Cuba.

We may not yet realize that every drop of water wasted here can save a life being extinguished by thirst elsewhere, or that one of four people in the world (25% or two billion) have no access to safe drinking water.

Water utilities, consumers and governments must do more to conserve water such as, for example, the reduction of water losses along transmission and distribution systems, managing leaks in households, businesses and public buildings, improving water storage, the installation of water conservation devices in private and public properties.

We continue to allow water to drain off our Caribbean roofs and into our drains while our farmers suffer with every predicted drought.

Meanwhile, water has quickly become a new and profitable investment commodity, with visionary investors now farming and harvesting the natural resource in Australia and the USA — and trading it for liquid cash on Wall Street.

So, if we are to avoid facing water blues sooner rather than later, our water entities and governments must do more to increase public education by programmes island-wide and year-round, rather than every World Water Day.

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