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The Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA) says that while it hopes that the rains return on June 1, the official start of the rainy season, it is planning for the worst-case scenario amidst widespread rationing as a result of an especially dry season in St. Vincent and the Grenadines. 

“We can tell you we are hoping that even within the next two weeks, we can have some rain. But there’s no guarantee that the traditional [wet] season will start right on time,” Winsbert Quow, general manager, CWSA, told a press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday. 

“…  and that’s why we thought it best to come to the public now to say that we can’t tell you how long this would be,” he said, adding that no forecaster can say with certainty when the rains will return.

“So, we are saying that we are hoping for the best but we are preparing for the worst. … this is a significant challenge that we are facing,” Quow said.

“And we want the public to know what we are doing to try and alleviate the problem in terms of rationing and we want you to also know what you can do in terms of helping play your part in alleviating this challenging situation.”

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The CWSA operates 12 water supply sources and four of them — Majorca, Montreal and Mamoon and Dalaway, which supplies 40% of consumers in St. Vincent are at “critically low levels”.

Winsbert Quow
Winsbert Quow, general manager, CWSA, speaking at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, on May 14, 2024.

Under the rationing regime, consumers supplied by Dallaway — Buccament through Calliaqua — on the southern and southeastern portion of the island, will be without water from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m. and 9 p.m. to 5 a.m., until further notice. 

This will also be the case with the Mamoon system, which supplies Green Hill and Largo Height

Meanwhile, an 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. shutdown will be in effect for the Majorca system, which supplies about 35 communities from Mt Pleasant in the interior community of Mesopotamia to Murray’s Village on the eastern borders of Kingstown.

The Montreal system, which supplies 53 communities from Richland Park, in the interior, to Diamond Estate on the central east coast, and parts of Diamond Village, another interior community, will also be without water from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m.

Quow said that during the period that water is scheduled to be one, CWSA “can guarantee you right now that you should get water. 

“If it’s a case where, as is happening in other countries, it gets to the point where you cannot supply based on the fact that the reservoirs are so low then you have to look into the possibility of trucking waters to some communities.”

Public Relations and Marketing Manager at the CWSA, Joan Ryan said the company cannot say that the water would always be available as customers would want.

“… not within this kind of critical condition that we are going through. So, what the technical section has device is really the best-case scenario to ensure that we receive water within a reasonable period of time,” Ryan told the press conference.

Joan Ryan
Public Relations and Marketing Manager at the CWSA, Joan Ryan, speaking at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

She said that CWSA is asking people living at higher elevations to say if they have not received water an hour after it is scheduled to return. 

Ryan said the municipal supplier started the water rationing on April 2 for communities supplied from the Montreal water source. 

This resulted in 25 communities initially being without water from 8 p.m. to 5 a.m. However, the rationing was extended to include 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. daily.

Rationing from the Dalaway source also commenced on April 12, initially for a few days. Then on April 19, rationing commenced nightly and continues for communities being supplied from the source. 

On Saturday, 33 communities supplied from the Majorca source were added to the rationing roster. Then, on Monday, the two communities supplied by the Mamoon source more added. 

Marco Audain, senior engineer at CWSA, said his team had been “doing a lot of manoeuvring” even before the disruptions to the water supply to consumers, to try to keep the water flowing in taps. 

“… We’ve been doing a lot of manoeuvring, using other systems to support our Jennings system which normally feeds the southeast coast.”

Audain said that while Jennings has been used to assist the Montreal system, “it has come to a point now where most of our sources are critically low”.

The solution is “a bit too severe now” and the usual “manoeuvres” are no longer sufficient to ensure that customers have a 24/7 water supply.

“So, it’s quite a few communities that are affected. And we are working arduously to do all that we can to use all resources available to us but, unfortunately, we are in this position where it is very difficult. We have to be disrupting our customers quite often,” the senior engineer said.

Quow said that the drier-than-normal conditions are affected other Eastern Caribbean countries, including Grenada and St. Lucia, adding that a recent study concluded that this would be the trend, because of climate change.

He told the media that the data show that while at the Dalaway source, January was wetter than usual, there was lower than normal rainfall in February, March and April compared to the five-year average.

“For example, in February, it was a 74.26% reduction. In March, it was about a 49% reduction. And, in April, it was just about 55% reduction,” Quow said. 

He added that there has also been an increase in temperatures with March 2024 being about 2 degrees Celsius above what is average for that month. 

“So you’re seeing the compounding effect of reduced rainfall and increased temperature. And that’s what’s driving the low water availability. We’ve seen it in our stream flows as well.”

He said January was “a significantly rainy” month.

“It was an anomaly. We had a lot of rain in January but from February to April, from the data that I have, our streamflow has been also steadily decreasing. So in February, it was about 1.54 million gallons and in April, we’re seeing it being just about 1.1 million gallons. So a reduction of 29%.”

Marco Audain
Marco Audain, senior engineer at CWSA, speaking at the press conference in Kingstown on Tuesday, May 14, 2024.

Quow said CWSA’s technicians have been doing their best to ensure that all customers have water in their taps for at least some parts of the day.

“It’s a 24-hour operation. In particular one of our systems, they have to be switching every half an hour for the entire day,” he said.

However, even with the rationing, consumption has not decreased, the CWSA manager said, adding that in March, the average daily consumption was about 2.5 million gallons. 

“… when we looked at the consumption for Saturday gone, May 11, the consumption was 2.2 million gallons. And that’s in the height of the rationing — rationing twice per day,” he said, adding that whenever the water is turned on, there is a run on the system.

“What’s highlighted as well is that during the dry season, we tend to want to use more water because it is dusty,” Quow told the media, adding that people want to wash their cars more and water their lawns and flowers.

“Some people want to even wash down their homes because of the dust. Now that’s just exacerbating the problem. We need Vincentians to change the way you use water, particularly in the dry season.’

Quow noted that the law allows the CWSA to disconnect the supply to people who waste water, but generally, they would warn the customers first.

Quow noted that the smaller water supply sources have not been affected, adding that the Layou and Hermitage supplies in North Leeward and North Windward are “still holding well, and they have excess capacity”. 

He said that people who do not get water by an hour after it is slated to be available should contact the CWSA directly at 456-2946 or WhatsApp 494-0933.

“This is not our first rodeo. We’ve gone through times of dryness before. We had a terrible drought in 2010. And you know every year we’ll have period — may not be as prolonged but we’ll have periods where there’s a dry spell and we are rationing water,” Quow said. 

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