No end in sight to A&B’s water crisis

Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) said it could be months before residents start to have water running from their taps on a regular basis, and an official said Antigua & Barbuda will continue to be gripped by a water crisis if there is not a significant amount of rainfall soon.

APUA Production Engineer Ian Lewis said the country’s main surface water source, Potworks Dam, is at about one-third of its capacity, and that the situation is compounded because the annual dry period runs from January to June.

“Potworks Dam is at about a third of capacity. Potworks holds just about a billion gallons of water, so we have just about 300 million – the equivalent of two to three months supply,” he said Tuesday during an interview on ABS Television.

“We had Tropical Storm Gonzalo and we had expected quite a bit of rainfall and run-off to replenish our surface water reservoirs. That did not happen but we did get some rain in November that replenished some of our reservoirs in Bendals and it provided about quarter of the quantity of water required for Potworks. That does not put us in a situation we are comfortable with,” Lewis told state media yesterday.

Since May 2014, APUA implemented water conservation methods with scheduled rationing to communities around the country. Residents have complained that even with the frequent rainfall in November and December, there have been instances where some of them go for days without seeing a drop of water from the taps.

Lewis said APUA is carrying out repairs at some of the desalination units which is expected to be complete by month’s end and requested SEMCORP — APUA’s supplier of desalinated water, to increase production by almost one million gallons per day to arrest the problem.

Seventy per cent of water now comes from desalination. Daily water production levels are now 500,000 to 1.5 million gallons, less than the seven million needed. Based on climate trends, the country may soon have to become fully reliant on desalination for water.

The production manager said heavy rains have caused more broken main pipes recently leading to much of the island being left without water. He added that prolonged dry weather can also cause the same problem.

Lewis said there has been little investment into dams and currently, some of them are too full to be improved.

“The dams we have in Bendals reservoir, most of them are 80 to 100 per cent full so (we) can’t do any work at this present time. We did do some remedial work on Hamilton reservoir that was damaged and apart from that we haven’t been able to do much,” he said.

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