When it comes to the topic of reliable water supply in our bit of paradise, it appears to be a case of damned if it rains and damned if it doesn’t. We made that observation based on the news that the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) has experienced broken pipes and other damage to the water distribution network because of rain.
That is right, according to Wayne Martin, the utility’s Superintendent of Maintenance and Distribution in the Water Business side of the fence, several water mains were damaged during the recent heavy rains. Digging into the situation (no pun intended) Martin informed the nation that “When the place was dry, the land cracked. Now that we put water in the line and the soil is moist, it becomes heavy, causing the transmission line and the distribution line to break.” So, while we were dancing in celebration of the recent rain, and the prospect of a more reliable water supply, we were unaware that the rain would be the cause of the formerly dry pipes to break. There is irony in here somewhere, we just need to find it.
The end result is that APUA’s ability to distribute water in an efficient manner, or at all, has been significantly hampered by the need for repairs after the showers of blessings (of course, the blessings part is a matter of perspective). As dire as the sound of five 16-inch mains being inoperable sounds, APUA has said that we need not worry. Repairs are underway and soon, 24-hour water supply will be established for several areas that have been underserved. According to Martin, once Potworks is up and running, people living in All Saints East, All Saints West, John Hughes, Radio Range, Herbert’s and areas within the immediate environs of St. John’s better be ready, because they will soon have a steady supply of water. Not only that, APUA says that with more water in the catchments, residents, island-wide, should begin to see improvements in the water-rationing schedule.
That leads us to the question: what happened to the big water distribution system upgrade? Just over a year ago, we asked publicly “What was the plan for the new water?” We asked that question when it was revealed that the aging network was not up to the task of delivering the abundance of water from the reverse osmosis plants around the island. In October of last year, we were told that APUA was given three weeks to come up with a plan to address weaknesses in the water distribution network. How is the plan coming?
Back then, information minister, Melford Nicholas, said, “There’s always a gap between the observance of a problem, the identification of the solution, and the implementation of the particular solution.” We observed that the observance happened a very long time ago, the solution was identified and all that the nation awaited was the implementation. We also noted that there was no planning mentioned, and we restated one of our favourite phrases, “Failing to plan is planning to fail.” We added a bit of advice along the lines of: it would be wise for everyone to heed those wise words.
Today, it seems that our advice fell on deaf ears because the rain that we prayed for, and which the heavens delivered, is stuck in the catchments because of the deficient water distribution network. Now, just in case someone will ask us how do we know the broken water mains are not part of the upgraded network, we will reply with “we don’t” but will add the next obvious observations: if the pipes are new, then the installation was deficient. There is no way that new pipes should have been installed in a manner that they would have broken in the way that Martin described. If they were, then whoever designed the installation should be sent home forthwith.
While we are on the topic of water distribution system, can someone tell us the outcome of that broken pipe feeding St. John’s and the Point areas? You know the one that was leaking half a million gallons per day? Did that ever get fixed? And if anyone is concerned enough and interested enough to answer this question, maybe they can give us an update on the bigger plan to upgrade the national water distribution system.