NIA Water Services Minister Brand delivers address for World Water Day 2021
NIA CHARLESTOWN NEVIS (March 22, 2021) — The following is an address by Hon. Spencer Brand, Minister responsible for Water Services in the Nevis Island Administration (NIA) on the occasion of World Water Day on March 22, 2021.
Greetings to all the citizens and residents at home and abroad,
I am pleased once again to address you on this World Water Day 2021. This year’s theme as declared by the United Nations is “Valuing Water”.
According to the website Worldwaterday.org, World Water Day, 22nd March is about what water means to people, its true value and how we can better protect this vital resource.
Whenever we see or hear the word value we immediately think of price which is determined by the forces of demand and supply. This is important because part of the global crisis in water is that in many regions and countries, the supply of water produced by the local agencies or authorities is inadequate to meet the growing demand from its users.
In economics, we learned that the law of demand and supply implies that whenever demand outstrips the supply the price should increase. However, this is not what happens in the real world because water is regarded as a public good and a necessity. Without it we would not survive, hence we often have to treat it as a right for all citizens and residents on planet earth.
In Nevis, despite the recent increase in the price of water a couple years ago, our prices are still on the low side when compared with other Caribbean jurisdictions. This is not to say that we would be increasing the price of water in the near future but rather to make the point that it is a challenge to produce and maintain the supply of water at the current prices offered.
Our costs out way the revenue collected. A crude analysis of our revenue and expenditure reveals that for three years the Nevis Water Department collected $5.684 million in 2018, $6.488 million in 2019, and $5.544 million in 2020. However, the department spent a total of $11.326 million in 2018, $8.102 million in 2019 and $8.128 million in 2020 excluding the electricity costs.
Despite this imbalance in revenue and expenditure we continue to meet the demand for water here on the island of Nevis while providing the necessary subsidies. The construction of reservoirs; the drilling and the installation of production water wells; the construction and installation of a new water treatment plant; the regular testing of the quality of water to meet [World Health Organization] WHO standards; the management of our water resources; the distribution and maintenance of the water system, all come at a cost which we must not take for granted. In light of this, we should therefore place a high intrinsic value to water.
Furthermore, the value of water must to be considered in the context of its importance for good health reasons. For instance, throughout this COVID-19 pandemic you have heard the clarion call to sanitize and wash your hands frequently with soap and water. Yet we tend to take it for granted that when we turn the tap water will flow so that we can do those non-pharmaceutical activities to prevent the spread of infectious diseases such as the Coronavirus or SARS COVID-19.
Water is also essential for food security since the farmers, households and back yard gardeners have to use it as the main input in food production. In addition, practically all other sectors in the economy of Nevis would not succeed unless there is an adequate supply of potable water, such as the tourism industry which is our main revenue earner.
The construction sector will come to a halt if [an] adequate supply of water is not available. The point is that water must be given a high value from all angles because our very livelihood, overall well-being and life depend on this finite commodity.
The implication of these factors presented so far in this message is that we must congratulate, cooperate and support all the dedicated and hard working men and women that labour every day for 24 hours to ensure that an adequate and safe supply of water is provided for our population.
We salute all those who have gone into the great beyond in recent times such as Mr. Brian Kennedy who passed in 2020, those who have worked in the sector for many years and now retired such as Ms. Shermin Browne Simmonds; and those who have taken the mantle of leadership in different roles such as Ms. Tonya Bartlette as Manager of the Nevis Water Department, and Mr. Roger Hanley the Operations Manager. We thank you very much for your sterling contributions to the development of the water sector here on Nevis.
Moreover, we must thank our strategic partners both local and regional, such as the Bureau of Standard in St. Kitts that assists us in water testing; the Caribbean Development Bank; the Caribbean Water and Waste Water Association; Caribbean Community] Caricom through the Caricom Development Fund; and The St. Kitts and Nevis Social Security Board which played a very significant role in securing funding for the Water Filtration System and storage tank at Hamilton; [Caribbean Public Health Agency] CARPHA, Lakeshore Engineering, Adedge Technologies Inc., Turnispeed Engineers, Florida Aquastore, the St. Kitts and Nevis COVID-19 Task Force, The Cabinet of the Nevis Island Administration, The Nevis Water Resources Management Unit, The Project Management Unit, the Ministry of Finance and all other entities that have worked with us over the last year to bring us thus far in our quest to achieve the United Nation’s Sustainable Development Goal No.6, of water and sanitation for all.
Even though we live on a small island within the Caribbean archipelago with just a small population of 12,277 (according to the 2011 census), it is my view that we are blessed because the United Nations has concluded that while substantial progress has been made in increasing access to clean drinking water and sanitation, billions of people – mostly in rural areas – still lack these basic services. Worldwide, one in three people do not have access to safe drinking water; two out of five people do not have a basic hand-washing facility with soap and water; and more than 673 million people still practice open defecation.
This statement is alarming, so let us not forget where we have come from and let us, together, chart a course to empower each other to play our part in maintaining and improving on our gains in the water sector; and play our role as we value this precious God-given natural resource.
The NIA will continue to invest in the water services sector here on Nevis by exploring for more water via drilling, by expanding our storage capacity with a 250, 000 gallon tank at Pond Hill, improve our services by upgrading our billing software, and roll out our E-pay platform in the very near future.
However, you can play your part by ensuring that you practice rainwater harvesting and install and maintain water storage at your home and work places; by practicing water conservation activities at all times; and by paying your water bills on time for accessing and using water. All of these efforts would certainly show that we put the highest value on water.
Happy World Water Day 2021!
Thank you and God bless.