Antigua is out of Surface Water Again

17 08 2015

Dale C. S. Destin |

Drought stricken Antigua is currently out of surface water once again, according to the Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA), our water authority. All surface catchments have fallen below extraction levels or have dried up as of the end of July for the second time in a year.

Potworks Dam, Aug 1, 2015 | Courtesy Karen Corbin, Humane Society

Potworks Dam, Aug 1, 2015 | Courtesy Karen Corbin, Humane Society

The country is now relying enormously on desalinated potable water. Our current daily potable water mix is around 83% desalinated water and 17% groundwater. Under normal conditions, 57% of our potable water comes from the sea, 28% from surface catchments and 15% from the ground.

According to APUA, around 5.5 million imperial gallons (MIG) of potable water are being produced per day, based on recent figures. However, the country requires around 8 MIG per day to satisfy demand. This means that there is a hefty daily deficit of around 2.5 MIG or 31%.

APUA plans to install a new desalination plant later this year; this will reduce the deficit but fall well short of eliminating it. In the interim, the water deficit could increase further as the drought continues.

The country was last out of surface water around this same time last year, 2014, after nearly a year into the current severe and prolonged drought. Unfortunately, we have found ourselves in this position many times in the past, when our surface catchments, which amount to a total capacity of around 1346 MIG, go dry.

Other years of depleted catchments include 2009/2010, 2000-2003, 1991, 1983 and 1973/1974 with perhaps 1983 being one of the most memorable as water had to be barged from Dominica.

A paper by A. J. Berland et al., published in 2013, shows that Antigua’s water woes and insecurities date back to colonial times.

Bethesda Dam, July 31, 2015 | Courtesy Karen Corbin, Humane Society

Bethesda Dam, July 31, 2015 | Courtesy Karen Corbin, Humane Society

Antigua has been in drought for around two years to date. Over the past three months, it has been at severe levels with rainfall in the bottom 1% of the historical records or amounting to less than 28% of the average. Further, year to date, we have had record low rainfall; the driest ever January-July dating back to at least 1928.

During the later part of 2014, we saw a significant recharge of catchments, due mainly to above normal rainfall in November, the only wet month for that year. The rainfall reduced the drought to slight levels but was not enough to end it. Since then, it has been all downhill.

The outlooks for rainfall remain depressing. Lower than normal rainfall is likely for August and August-October, and below to near normal rainfall is likely for November-January. Meanwhile, above normal temperature over much of August-January could exacerbate things.

We rely heavily on the wet season (July-December) rainfall to recharge catchments to take us through the dry season (January-June). If the drought persists, as we expect it to, catchments could remain below extractable levels or dry until the next wet season.

The need for water conservation and efficiency, at this time, cannot be over emphasized.

Follow us also on @anumetservice, facebook and tumblr for the latest on the current drought and other weather & climate news.

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9 responses

17 08 2015
voicefromahammock

I suppose the “Antigua’s water woes and insecurities date back to colonial times” is just a logical reality, as no one kept statistics before that time… One also has to wonder why APUA has never made an effort to build additional desalination plants, make sure they work, service and maintain them properly in stead of having to suddenly go into what looks like a panic attack. The record of severe droughts show that it’s to be expected and not making provision for it sounds like planning to build a barn door when the horses already bolted.

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17 08 2015
Dale Destin - Antigua Met Service

Given our history, desal plants are necessary; however, they should be a last resort. They are very harmful to the environment and contribute the same climate change that may contributing to our droughts. Further, because of the energy intensive nature of desalination, we literally cannot afford this water; it is unsustainable; APUA is selling this water at a huge loss. I think there is the opportunity to reingineer the current catchments to double capacity so as to rely less on desal. There are some other things that can be done which I will talk about in future blogs. Thanks!

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18 08 2015
ARTHUR CHRISTIAN

REVERSE OSMOSIS ARE OUT THERE THAT PRODUCE THE SAME CAPACITY AS DESAL PLANT AND REQUIRE VERY LITTLE ENERGY,SMALL MAINTENANCE CREW AND COST WAY LESS TO CONSTRUCT

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18 08 2015
Dale Destin - Antigua Met Service

Great! Let’s hope new acquired RO plants will be of this type. Meanwhile, we have the legacy of energy guzzling, GHG polluting RO plants. Let’s hope they can be replaced soon. Meanwhile, there is the issue of RO plants on the marine ecosystem. Particularly the impact of the brine and its temperature. Also, there is a question mark on how safe are the residual chemicals from the RO process. Question: can we produce potable water via RO that is competitive with potable water from surface and groundwater? Of course, if the natural water resources are depleted or insufficient, we have no choice but to use RO for potable water as a last resort. Thanks for your comment!

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2 09 2015
Hurricane Danny Takes Aim at Drought-Parched Caribbean | Claire Magazine

[…] island throughout the region are also suffering. Reservoirs have completely dried up in Antigua, forcing the tiny island nation and to rely almost completely on desalinated water. So […]

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15 03 2016
How a Monster El Niño Transforms the World’s Weather – Enjeux énergies et environnement

[…] supplies also led to crop losses in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and other areas. As of August, Antigua had no surface water supplies, and by October it was using 100 percent desalinated […]

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25 03 2016
Dale C. S. Destin - Antigua Met Service

From my information, desal accounted for a peak of around 92% of potable water with the remaining coming from underground aquifers.

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16 03 2016
How a Monster El Niño Transforms the World’s Weather – The Environment Online

[…] supplies also led to crop losses in the Dominican Republic, Haiti and other areas. As of August, Antigua had no surface water supplies, and by October it was using 100 percent desalinated […]

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25 03 2016
Dale C. S. Destin - Antigua Met Service

Close to but not quite 100%, more like around 92% desal, the rest is ground water.

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