Declaration of World Water Day – Address by Hon. Shawn Richards

The content originally appeared on: ZIZ Broadcasting Corporation

Why World Water Day?

World Water Day is held annually on March 22nd as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources.  The first World Water Day was commemorated on March 22nd, 1993 as a result of a declaration by the United Nations General Assembly.

The Theme:

The theme for this year is “Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible.”  This theme is very appropriate for us here in St. Kitts-Nevis as over two-thirds of our potable water supplies are derived from Groundwater.  Groundwater simply means that portion of rainfall that soaks into the ground and recharges our aquifers.

Since the early 1970s, here in St. Kitts-Nevis we have been drilling wells which allows us to utilize this groundwater.  The fact that we have been able to continue to meet the water demands of our rapidly developing country, is due to our developing the skills to tap into this invisible resource that lies beneath our feet.

Hydrogeologists tell us that on a tropical island such as ours, typically about 20 % of rainfall infiltrates the ground and goes deep into the earth to become groundwater; thus it is aptly described as “invisible” as it is out of sight.  Many of us often refer to this as the “water table.”  Through the process of well-drilling, we are able to bring this water from below ground (invisible!) to above ground and to distribute it to our houses and other institutions; thus making it visible!

It is important to note a few facts about this “groundwater.”   

On St. Kitts, the Water Services Department operates some twenty-eight (28) wells ranging in size from 20 gallons per minute to 400 gallons per minute; with depths ranging from 84 feet to over 300 feet.
The volume of water that we can get from a well depends on a number of factors, but the main one is the permeability of the rocks.
It requires a lot of electricity to pump groundwater from beneath the earth to your taps: about 5 Kwh/1,000 gallons, which costs about EC$4.50 per 1,000 gallons.
Therefore, in St. Kitts, we must always remember that when we waste water we are not only wasting WATER, but we are also wasting electricity and ‘tax dollars that could have been used elsewhere.

The Local Situation:

In St. Kitts-Nevis, it is very important for us to always remember that all of our public potable water comes from rainfall.  As indicated above, when this rain falls some of it infiltrates into the ground and is stored in groundwater aquifers.  The growing threat of climate change means that rainfall patterns are changing and that sea levels are rising.  Even though climatic changes are slow, they are nonetheless a real and serious threat.  Our response to this threat must begin with the necessary investments to allow us to carefully monitor such climatic and environmental parameters.

A robust and resilient Water Infrastructure is fundamental to the sustainable development of our nation.  As such, the government is committed to allocating the necessary resources to ensure that every household and business in St. Kitts has twenty-four-hour access to a safe and adequate supply of potable water.

The WSD has worked assiduously to extend the water distribution network to over ten (10) new Housing Developments over the past year.  With the assistance of the Ministries of Finance and Sustainable Development, we have initiated plans to continue to extend the Water Distribution system in over twenty (20) such additional areas this year.

Other investments in our Water Infrastructure also include, of course:

Drilling of additional wells
Replacement and upgrading of Pipelines
Construction of New, and expansion of existing storage reservoirs
The use of modern technology to improve efficiency and to optimize the use of our resources.

We have also begun to review the current institutional capacity and structure of the Water Services Department to see whether it would be beneficial to convert the Department to a Statutory Entity.

We recognize that water is a basic necessity for hygiene and sanitation and as such must always be affordable to even the poorest amongst us.  However, while we subsidize the poor, we must ensure that those who can afford to, pay an equitable rate ensure that we recover the cost of providing the service.  To this end, we would continue to review and assess the water tariff.  The last increase in our water tariff was some 21 years ago (2001).

A Shared Responsibility:

The Water Services Department and by extension the Ministry of Public Infrastructure, always stresses that the sustainable management of our water resources is a shared responsibility;  yes the government has its role to play, but you the users have an equally important role to perform.  Your role, in a nutshell, is to conserve water; especially repairing leaks in a timely manner.

Of course, you also discharge your responsibility towards the sustainable management of our water resources by paying for the service.  The United Nations recommends that up to 3% of household income is quite reasonable for your water bill.  Even for a low-income family with a household income of $2,000.00/month, 3% of income is $60.00/month.  A family of five (5) using water efficiently at 40 gallons per person per day should not be using more than 6,000 gallons/month, which costs $47.60/month (2.4% of income).

I take this opportunity to encourage us all to demonstrate our appreciation for the high quality of water services that we have in St. Kitts by playing our role in ensuring that the government collects the revenue necessary to continue to sustain this service.

Week of Activities:

Allow me at this point to mention some of the Activities that the Water Services Department has put together to mark this auspicious occasion of World Water Day.

Just today, both the St. Kitts Water Services Department and the Nevis Water Department met for a friendly cricket match.  It is worth noting that while these two Departments are independently managed, they have very close ties and share resources willingly.
Tomorrow, staff of the WSD supported by the Ministry of Public Infrastructure will fellowship at the People’s Evangelistic Church at Needsmust Estate.
On Tuesday, March 22nd (World Water Day) we would have our Customer Appreciation Day and Open Day…that is the best time to pay your bill and receive a token!
On Wednesday, March 23rd join us on ZIZ at 10:30 am for our radio program “the Water Line.”

Other activities include a filtration competition for Primary schools and other activities for staff.

In closing, let me take this opportunity to thank the over 100 men and women of the Water Services Department who every day work hard to ensure that we have water when we open our taps.  Several of these workers get out of their beds at 4 in the morning while most of us are still enjoying the comfort of our beds.  And so while we know that there is still room for improvement, let us stop taking for granted, the sacrifice and the cost that goes into providing excellent water service.

It, therefore, gives me great pleasure as the Minister with responsibility for Water Services to declare Water Week open and to wish you a happy World Water Day on Tuesday, March 22nd.

May God continue to bless us with an abundance of clean freshwater in our beloved Federation.