Basseterre, St. Kitts, March 22, 2017 (SKNIS): The Honourable Ian Patches Liburd, Minister of Public Infrastructure, is urging farmers to explore “non-conventional water resources” for the purpose of crop irrigation.

Giving an address to mark “World Water Day 2017” on Wednesday March 22, Minister Liburd revealed that “the Department of Agriculture has identified the availability of irrigation water as the critical factor retarding the growth of the sector on the island.” He indicated that farmers may want to look at the reuse of wastewater as a viable option to address the present water deficit in the agriculture sector.

According to Minister Liburd, “If applied safely, wastewater is a valuable source of both water and nutrients and when mixed with harvested water it can enhance the water quality and contribute to water and food security and livelihood improvements.”

He added that “improved wastewater management can improve the health of workers, especially in agriculture, by reducing the risk of pathogen (disease causing microorganisms) exposure. It can also create direct and indirect jobs in water-dependent sectors and beyond.”

Revealing that “the Water Services Department sits on a steering committee which is mandated to formulate the terms of reference for the New Basseterre High School’s design,” Minister Liburd explained that this new facility is envisaged to be “a model green school” and is expected to “harvest rainwater, treat its wastewater and re-use the wastewater for irrigation of a school farm and toilet facilities.”

The minister further noted that a pattern of increased usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is increasing, both in industrial and small farming, noting that this is with “no doubt to help to maximise yields to meet demand.” The minister, however, explained that this increase has raised concerns about environmental pollution.

“Thus came the declaration of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Wellfield Area as a National Park and protected area in an effort to limit human activity in that area and protect the 2.5 MGD or 40% of our total accessible freshwater resource from contamination from domestic and agricultural wastes,” said Minister Liburd.

The new Basseterre High School, according to Minister Liburd, will be located “on the fringes or downstream of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Well Field,” adding that the school is intended to serve as “a model school with all the amenities to provide sustainable use of water and energy whilst allowing minimal impact on the aquifer.”

“This model,” according to Minister Liburd, “should allay the fears of residents of the potential negative impacts on the freshwater resources in the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Wellfield Area.”