St Lucia government declares water emergency amidst continuing drought
Government has declared a water-related emergency for all parts of the island, effective yesterday and running until July 31, as the drought situation showed no signs of improvement and water levels decreased.
This type of emergency is declared when a shortage or deficiency of water exists or may soon exist.
Minister with responsibility for the Public Service, Information, and Broadcasting Dr. James Fletcher said yesterday, in a national address on the measures to deal with the drought, that river flow rates around the island were below expected base-flow rates.
“The information presented to me by the Water Resource Management Agency indicates that from the data collected at George F.L. Charles Airport and Hewanorra International Airport . . . St. Lucia is currently experiencing a long-term meteorological drought,” he said.
“To make matters worse, because of the intense heat we have been experiencing, the rate of evaporation has also increased. As of May 11, 2015, the water level at the dam was 81.6 inches below the spillway, or a little less than seven feet below the high point of the dam. We are roughly at the same point we were last year, but with faster rates of decline of our water levels. If we do not take action, we expect the water level to drop an additional 6.8 feet by the end of May and a further 12 feet by the end of June. This would be catastrophic.”
Fletcher said Government has therefore taken several steps to reduce the impact of the dry period. In the north of the island, the Vanard and Ravine Poisson intakes were re-activated; abstraction of water from the John Compton Dam will be reduced; 13 major leaks on the raw water line from the dam to the Ciceron Treatment Plant are being repaired; a water source in Deglos will be activated; and temporary public standpipes will be installed in some of the most affected communities around the island.
In addition, the National Emergency Management Organization, (NEMO), will assist with trucking water to communities where water is urgently required.
Government said the public had to cooperate for the measures to work. It has advised that drinking water should not be used for washing vehicles and watering lawns or gardens, and that the washing of vehicles in rivers, should stop immediately in order to avoid contamination of water sources.
The Caribbean Drought and Precipitation Monitoring Network has issued a drought warning for the islands of Aruba, Bonaire, Curacao, Antigua and Barbuda, Cayman Islands, Dominica, the eastern part of the Dominican Republic, Jamaica, Martinique, St. Kitts, St. Lucia, St. Vincent and the Grenadines, and northern Guyana.
Due to the emergence of an El Nino, which often results in a drier dry season later in the year, the forecast is that islands in the south eastern Caribbean that have existing water shortages may not see any improvement until the Atlantic hurricane season or wet season starts.