By Elesha George
The Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) remains persistent in its effort to supply the country with sufficient potable water that the Manager of the APUA Water Business Unit, Ian Lewis, says will prevent water rationing and shortage.
During Thursday’s Throne Speech – an oration which summarises the government’s accomplishments of the previous year and highlights some of its future plans – Governor General Sir Rodney Williams said the company has promised to make available a total of 10 million gallons of water a day by the end of 2022, a 30 percent increase from the seven million gallons currently being produced.
In his delivery of the throne speech, Sir Rodney said the utilities company has moved beyond planning and will begin to implement a number of measures to increase water production this year.
“My government has provided the following lineup for improved water production in response to the urgent needs of our residents,” he said, sharing that a number of additional plants will be installed throughout 2022, including a Japanese-funded plant which is expected to be installed this weekend at Ffryes Beach.
This will increase the units at Ffryes Beach to four, and supply an additional estimate of 350,000 to 400,000 gallons of water per day to residents in the areas between Jennings Primary School and Old Road.
APUA intends for the plant to become operational in the first quarter of this year, followed by a plant in Fort James which has the capacity to hold an estimated 500,000 gallons. It will become operational in June 2022.
Meanwhile, the Bethesda reverse osmosis plant with a capacity of 3.2 million gallons is expected to be installed several months later in September.
“My government has been assured by APUA, that payments for this plant have been accelerated to facilitate its expeditious delivery to our shores and to avoid delays in the supply chain. These new plants will significantly enhance the units at Crabbs, Camp Blizzard, Barnacle Point, Pigeon Point and three existing plants at Ffryes,” the Governor General explained.
Lewis also told Observer that the reverse osmosis plant at Fort James will serve the port, cruise ships, Heritage Quay, Point, Villa, McKinnons and the rest of the north side of St John’s City while the largest one in Bethesda will provide water to communities from Willikies to English Harbour and Liberta/All Saints.
APUA however has its work cut out, as 2021 produced a near record-breaking dry year, with only 23.65 inches of rainfall, according to Dale Destin, Director of the Antigua and Barbuda Meteorological Service.
In his blog Destin noted, “This level of waterlessness for a year is extremely rare. There is only a 0.5 percent chance of the island average being 23.65 inches or lower. This translates to the kind of dryness that has a return period of once in 200 years on average.”
The country has been forced to rely on reverse osmosis water in recent months and a water rationing schedule is currently in effect across the island.
Even so residents have reported being unable to get pipe-borne water on the scheduled days – a matter Cabinet said it had taken up with the utilities company.
In the meantime, APUA is asking its customers for further patience in order to deliver on this year’s promise.
According to Sir Rodney, “Our existing system has done its time; it is inefficient and inadequate for the consistent supply of quality potable water. A sustainable solution to include the installation of a sewer system in St John’s City has already been designed but delays occasioned by the Covid-19 pandemic have slowed the implementation process.”
Lewis shared that the company would be embarking on a project this year, to replace broken cast iron pipes – that contribute to significant leakage – with high density polyethylene pipes (HDPE).
In 2018, the Water Business Unit reported that an average of $2.3 million in revenue is lost each year due to broken and leaking pipes.
That same year Public Utilities Minister Sir Robin Yearwood said the losses amounted to 40 percent of the water produced each year.