Minister of Public Infrastructure the Hon. Ian Patches Liburd
Minister of Public Infrastructure the Hon. Ian Patches Liburd

Ministerial statement commemorates World Water Day

From SKNIS

World Water Day was first celebrated in 1993, when the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 as the first World Water Day. [Now,] 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.
In St. Kitts, we are fortunate that there is universal access to pipe-borne water, that 98 percent 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.ent 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 and floods and hurricanes with increased frequency and intensity.
We are therefore challenged to be proactive in finding NBSs to mitigate these hazards.
Drought
The region suffered an historic drought during 2015-2016; in St. Kitts, annual rainfall fell to 45 percent and 55 percent, 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.
Flooding/High Winds
After two consecutive years of drought, rainfall returned to St. Kitts during the 2018 rainy season. As is becoming more frequent under climate chang, 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 stand-by 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.
Renewable Energy
The WSD is one of the largest users of energy on island. Electrical energy is required to power pumps that lift water from hundreds 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 NBSs will significantly reduce the carbon footprint 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. On March 18, WSD worshipiped at the Wesley Methodist Church. Water Department staff will be engaging the communities during the week of March 19-23 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 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 islandwide “WaterCade” on Saturday, April 28. The objective is to highlight and promote the
sustainable use of our water resources; 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: 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.