The state-controlled National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) has plans to build two new dams on the eastern side of the country as part of a five-year short-term development plan to address water challenges that are expected to intensify in the country due to the growing climate change phenomenon.
In an exclusive interview with THE NEW TODAY newspaper, General Manager of NAWASA Christopher Husbands said that two sites have already been identified for the construction of larger dams in the Les Avocat and Petite Etang areas.
Husbands acknowledged that raw water storage is an area where the Authority has been “seriously lacking,” and the state body is trying to source “external funding from the Green Climate Fund (GCF) to build modern dams, which will ultimately increase “raw water sources, especially during the dry season.”
He regarded climate change phenomenon as a “slow developing process,” alluding to “a level of uncertainty (in relation to) the predictions and what the effects (of climate change) would be over different time frames.”
Husbands said “science tells us that we need to prepare for certain changes,” but pointed out that the negative effect of climate change “is not just a specific event with a defined time frame.”
With another two months of water shortages projected for the ongoing dry season, Husbands said, “from a NAWASA standpoint, the two main changes (due to the climate change phenomenon, are going to relate to rainfall” or a lack of it thereof.
“We are expecting (in the coming years), longer (and) more intense dry seasons, which will come from the El Ninos and more frequent occurrences of high intensity rainfall events,” he remarked.
The NAWASA General Manager pointed out that “we still have a reasonably reliably supply (because) we are still using regulations et cetera and (are) trying to at least maintain an adequate supply” for the dry season.
He noted that “the (water levels in) some of the other islands (in the Caribbean) have dropped more significantly” and “more aggressive regulation schedules (have been implemented where) persons are losing water for longer periods at a time.
“Interestingly, most of the damage that has taken place in the region from storms in the last 5, 6 years, has been from high intensity rainfall not from wind,” Husbands said.
“When you look at the events in Dominica last year, the Christmas Eve event the year before with St. Lucia, St. Vincent and I think Dominica; to an extent, we are seeing that there are vulnerabilities to the high intensity rainfall events,” he added.
According to Husbands against such a background, NAWASA’s dry season resilience has to be based on “raw water storage, where a large raw water reservoir is created that you can extract from, treat and distribute” as needed.
“Clearly we need to do more in terms of preparing for the dry season,” he said, pointing to the “serious drops in the water resources this dry season,” which is being considered as one of the more intense experienced in recent years.
Husbands alluded to major investments to come on stream geared at addressing raw water and treated water deficiencies, raw water storage, particularly during the dry season and treated water storage during the season of high intensity rainfall.
He stated that improved “raw water storage will allow us (NAWASA) to extract more water when the (water level) at the rivers drop and the flow cannot sustain the daily production.
He noted that “the only large body of water used for raw water storage on the island is the Grand Etang Lake (as) all our other dams are small raw water areas, (which) give maybe three weeks to a month supply for the most.”
The NAWASA boss stressed that the new dams being talked about will help to mitigate against water interruption issues experienced in several communities year after year.
“In the dry season, some persons experience water interruptions because there is not enough water to treat, so unfortunately, we have to shut down because we don’t have enough raw water stored (while) in the rainy season the water interruption is caused by the opposite effect.
“…When you have intense rainfall the river becomes so dirty that in some cases you have to shut down the plant because you cannot treat the water to the level that it is supposed to be treated because it will come out dirty in the pipe (while in other cases the river gets so turbid that it blocks up the dam and the entire plant has to be shut down,” he said.
According to Husbands, in order to address this problem, NAWASA will be investing in more treated water storage in these areas such as a reservoir that will be built to hold at least a couple days supply of treated water.
“…So that when you have these problems where the plant is shut down, you have means of keeping your supply going”, he remarked.
Husbands is optimistic that these projects, which are part of a US$30m series of water sector projects submitted to GCF, would be ready for implementation within the last quarter of 2016 into the first quarter of 2017.