World Water Day was first celebrated in 1993 when the United Nations General Assembly designated 22 March as the first World Water Day. 25 years later, World Water Day is celebrated around the world every year by focusing attention on the importance of water and shining the spotlight on a different issue. The theme for World Water Day 2018 is ‘Nature for Water’– exploring Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to the water challenges we face in the 21st century.
Environmental damage exacerbated by climate change, is driving the water-related crises we see around the world and is now at our door step. Floods, drought and water pollution are all made worse by degraded vegetation, soil, rivers, streams and even underground aquifers.
Nature-based solutions have the potential to solve many of our water challenges. We need to do so much more with ‘green’ infrastructure and harmonize it with ‘grey’ infrastructure wherever possible.
Damaged ecosystems affect the quantity and quality of water available for human consumption. Today, 2.1 billion people live without safe drinking water at home; affecting their health, education and livelihoods. Sustainable Development Goal 6 commits the world to ensuring that everyone has access to safe water by 2030, and includes targets on protecting the natural environment and reducing pollution.
In St. Kitts, we are fortunate that there is universal access to pipe borne water, that 98% of our residents have water service connections to their homes and those who don’t, have easy access to public standpipes that are scattered throughout the various communities.
The Water Services Department performs the challenging task of managing the island’s fresh water resources, there is collaboration between the Ministries of Agriculture, Sustainable Development and Health to protect our watersheds, aquifers and water quality.
This job is becoming more challenging as a consequence of climate change, characterized by drought, floods and hurricanes with increased frequency and intensity.
We are therefore challenged to be proactive in finding Nature Based Solutions (NBS) to mitigate these hazards:
The region suffered an historic drought during 2015-2016; in St. Kitts, annual rainfall fell to 45% and 55% respectively of the long term annual average. To address the drought the WSD promoted rain water harvesting (collecting water from roofs). Residents were encouraged to install/construct water storage facilities at their homes and businesses. This is a sustainable practice that reduces dependence on the main grid. We also invested in well drilling away from the coast to reduce the chances of salt water intrusion.
After two (2) consecutive years of drought, rainfall returned to St. Kitts during the 2018 Rainy Season. As is becoming more frequent under climate change drought was followed by flooding. There were several flooding events in 2017 that threatened life and property. The passage of Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought devastation to the region. We too were affected but were able to return service quickly due to initiatives taken by my government. One initiative is the installation of standby generators at our wells to power pumps in the absence of electricity immediately after the passage of a storm.
My government is investigating the possibility of constructing retention ponds (dam) in Upper Olivees to collect the flood water that would otherwise flood downtown Basseterre. This water will then be used to artificially recharge wells in the Basseterre Valley.
The WSD is one of the largest users of energy on island. Electrical energy is required to power pumps that lift water from 100’s of feet underground. The energy presently used to power these wells is derived from diesel generators.
My government is presently at advance stages of discussion for exploration of geothermal energy and construction of a major solar farm. These Nature Based Solutions will significantly reduce the carbon foot print of our energy sector and result in reduce costs to consumers.
This year, the Water Services Department will be organising a series of activities around World Water Day. The activities will commence on Sunday March 18, when WSD will worship at the Wesley Methodist Church. Water Department staff will be engaging the communities during the week 19-23 March by visiting the light manufacturing plants (factories) at the CAP Southwell Industrial Park.
Staff will also be appearing on local radio and television shows to discuss the importance of water in our daily lives. A clean up at the La Guerite Water Treatment Plant is scheduled for Thursday March 22, World Water Day
The programme continues after school reopens with school visits during the week April 23-27. Staff from the Water Department, accompanied by staff from other ministries will collaborate on an island wide ‘WaterCade’ on Saturday April 28th. The objective of which is to highlight and promote the sustainable use of our water resources. Thirty (30) minute stopovers will be made in several communities.
We are now in the heart of the Dry Season and have had very little rainfall for the past two months. I take this opportunity to encourage all to use this precious but finite resource wisely. My government has invested in water drilling projects that should come to fruition shortly. We thank you for your patience in this regard.
In closing, let me again remind you of the theme for this year’s celebration of World Water Day on March 22, ‘Nature for Water’– exploring Nature-Based Solutions (NBS) to the water challenges we face in the 21st century
It challenges us to work together to manage and utilize our water resources in a sustainable manner as failure to do so will threaten our very existence.
Please support us as we attempt to highlight the importance of nature based solutions to water resources management during the next month. Let us all resolve to take care of this vital but finite resource so that we can guarantee our livelihoods and that of generations yet unborn. I thank you for your kind attention. Good evening.