June 10, 2010
Minister responsible for Public Utilities and Natural Resources on Nevis Hon. Carlisle Powell, said the sitting Nevis Island Administration recognised that the way to meaningful development in Nevis was through water and it had made major investments in the natural resource.
He made the comment when he delivered the keynote address at the Second Annual Water Operators Conference which opened at Mount Nevis Hotel on Thursday with over 20 delegates from across the Caribbean.
The two day meeting is hosted by the Nevis Water Department in collaboration with the Caribbean Basin Water Management Programme Inc. The theme is “Operators Certification ““ Opportunities, Advances and Experience”.
He said as a result of the investments, the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB) approved the Nevis Water Project in March. The project will be in the form of a loan geared towards upgrading the Nevis water supply network.
“It includes installing water mains, constructing new reservoirs and replacing old reservoirs, purchasing equipment, installing a SCADA system to control levels in reservoirs, improving the chlorination system and conducting studies.
“There is also a small element of grant funding for building capacity. In addition, over a period of a few years, the Water Department will be corporatized. The total project is estimated at $30million. In addition to all that, we are in the process of getting two to three acres of land so that we can consolidate our operations and build a headquarters that is symbolic of the importance of the sector that it served,” he said.
The Minister noted that the NIA’s goal was to provide the island’s people with a constant supply of portable water at international standards and at an affordable price and had accepted that all avenues should be explored to find new water to add to the supply.
He pointed to what he termed a successful partnership between Bedrock Exploration And Development (BEAD) and the NIA, which had supplied the island with water 24 hours a day seven days a week when other Caribbean islands had suffered from the effects of drought.
Notwithstanding, Mr. Powell assured the visiting delegates that he understood the challenges water operators faced which he said was complicated by the fact that much of their work was buried underground.
“People do not see your miles of pumping and distribution lines. So when you lay 10 or 20 miles of pipes, people soon forget that a substantial portion of your critical work is underground. They do not remember until there is a leak and you have to dig up the nice smooth roads, disrupt their water supplies and cause traffic difficulties,” he said.
The Public Utilities Minister noted that there was also the challenge posed by the growing number of persons who believed that water was a social service and should be provided free of cost; that it was ok to buy bottled water at any cost yet strenuously objected to pay lower public water rates; that leaky faucets, toilets, hoses and such were not important until it was time to pay the bill; that metered water wasted through a broken pipe should be free and that it was ok to pay for electricity, telephones, cable, cell phones and if anything was left over maybe pay for water.
“Arguments like these have challenged our Water Department and I am certain that they are not unknown to your utilities. In Nevis we have had to strengthen the Water department to tighten up on collections and for this I want to publicly thank Assistant Secretary Mr. Wakely Daniel, my friend and brother, Mr. Oriel Hanley and the entire staff at The Nevis Water Department for helping us to reduce our delinquency rate,” he said.