Water Management a Developmental Priority for the Region
President of the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), Dr. Wm Warren Smith called on every country in the Region to place water management at the top of its list of development priorities. He made this call at the 22nd Annual Conference of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association held on October 7, 2013 in Barbados. During his opening remarks, Dr. Smith noted, "Managing and securing access to water and sanitation for all is, perhaps, the biggest challenge facing Caribbean leaders and, indeed, all world leaders today. . All of the key development challenges facing our Region, including energy generation and usage; food security; natural disaster management; and environmental protection are closely linked to effective water management." "If we accept that water is a key driver of economic and social development, [then] water managers, . must lead the charge to find new and innovative approaches to address the formidable challenges facing the sector. Primary among these challenges are inadequate tariff structures; inefficient water supply networks; and inadequate access in rural communities. We can also add to this list inadequate wastewater management systems coverage; weak data management capacity for water resource management; high per capita usage; and a shortage of capacity, especially in the areas of planning and risk management." The President stated, "The water and sanitation sector is one of the keys to the achievement of our development mandate. In the past four decades, CDB has channelled an estimated USD120 million into the sector. Currently, we have ongoing interventions in Barbados, Belize, Dominica, Guyana, St. Kitts and Nevis and St. Lucia." He added that water will continue to be a centrepiece of the Bank's development assistance over the medium term. He also made reference to the assessment of the water sector in the Region commissioned by CDB in 2012. "Rainfall data for the last 40 decades point to a decline in freshwater availability. We note this trend especially in the northern Caribbean, where the decline was by as much as 50%, in some countries. Second, when we compared per capita consumption in the Caribbean with that of similar regions of the world, it was 50% higher than expected. In addition, unaccounted-for water across this Region ranged from 17% to 66%. It was also found that the percentage of population with connected sewerage systems varied from 0% to 30%, with access to piped water at less than 90% in four of our borrowing member countries (BMCs). Finally, in ten of the utilities in our eighteen BMCs, operational costs exceed revenues being generated by the services provided," he said. Noting that the Region cannot afford to ignore the significance of these findings, Dr. Smith pledged that CDB will continue to work in a collaborative manner with its BMCs and development partners to provide solutions that will safeguard water for future generations in this Region.