Antigua’s Water Crisis

4 03 2014

By Dale C. S. Destin |

Antigua is on the verge of running out of water. According to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), the water authority, the island is experiencing a water crisis stemming from the current drought, which dates back to late summer 2013. The water authority has indicated that there was only one month’s supply of surface water remaining as of February 21 and most of the limited water flowing through the country’s taps is from the desalination of seawater.

2013 Rainfall vs NormalThis news came as a thief in the night for most residents. At the beginning of the crisis in January, after days of dry taps and silence, APUA eventually issued a statement blaming a downed water plant and being out of water treatment chemicals which they said would be rectified in days. Then, after more silence and the problem unresolved, they then announced that the country was almost out of water due to the drought. However, the rainfall numbers for 2013 don’t support the dire circumstances being painted by the water authority. Whereas the rainfall for 2013 was not typical, with the dry season wetter than the wet season, the aggregate at the end of the year was near normal.  The actual figure was 46.20 inches for 2013 as compared to the normal of 47.37 inches for a given year.

Digging deeper into the numbers, seven months of 2013 had above normal rainfall, two had near normal rainfall and only three months had below normal rainfall – February, July and October (click image for larger view). Six months had over four inches of rainfall and four months had over five inches, one more than normal in each case. If near normal rainfall is now the threshold for plunging Antigua into a water crisis, then it means that about seven out of every 10 years, this predicament can be anticipated. This could result in major socio-economic problem for Antigua as the success of a country is closely linked to adequate freshwater supplies.

There is no gainsaying that there is a drought. However, it has been slight to moderate for much of the time, apart from a very brief period over July to September when there was a serious rainfall deficit, due almost exclusively to a very dry July.

The logical question then is, “why is Antigua running out of water?” The rainfall for 2013 is more than enough to serve the country’s needs. The 46.20 inches of rainfall is the equivalent of 72.2 billion gallons of water falling on Antigua during 2013. Why has APUA failed to capture enough of this water for storage for the dry season? Why is it that nearly all of it was allowed to runoff into the sea? If Antigua is a “drought prone” country, why haven’t there been strategies and institutions put in place to effectively mitigate and adapt to this hazard? Where is the national drought plan? Better can and should be done.

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7 responses

4 03 2014
tee nunes

i have had this uncanny feeling that the drought is not the only contributor to our present ‘crisis’….it might be stated that our population has grown and the demand for water increased, but more hotels now make their own water than ever before….what is really the reason?….is it theft?….has a desal plant gone down?….can we not afford to buy water from the RO plant?…the last i heard of such water shortage is in the ’60s and ’70’s….have we made no advancement since then?..that speaks volumes.

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5 03 2014
Steve Coghlan

An interesting and thought provoking article………Well done!

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5 03 2014
anumetservice

Thanks!

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6 03 2014
LD

Why has the government never taken over the 750,000 gallon per day RO production plant the is lying idle at the defunct Stanford Crabbs Marine Facility?

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7 03 2014
anumetservice

Thanks for your comment. However, every effort should be made to move away from relying on desalination. This process is very expensive and is probably done at a loss to APUA; hence, it is unsustainable. Desalination is also very harmful to the climate and the environment, especially the marine environment. Thus, this should have been the last and not first resort. Of course, until things are put in place to move away from the heavy reliance on desalinated water, the country’s water insecurity will likely worsen.

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13 03 2014
Antigua’s Rainfall Intensity – 2013 | ABMS Climate Section Blog

[…] intensity of the rainfall for 2013. Last week, it was shown that the rainfall total for last year was near normal. The rainfall measured was 46.20 inches, the equivalent of 72.2 billion gallons of […]

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12 04 2016
teia

intresting site

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