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My fellow citizens and residents – I bid you warm greetings. World Water Day is celebrated annually on March 22nd as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of this vital resource. The first World Water Day was commemorated on March 22nd, 1993 as a result of a declaration by the United Nations General Assembly.".

In 2017, the World Water Day theme is Wastewater and the campaign "Why Waste Water?' turns the spotlight on reducing and reusing wastewater to help to achieve Sustainable Development Goal Number 6. Target 6.3 of the Sustainable Development Goals in part requires us by 2030 to improve water quality by reducing pollution, eliminating dumping and minimizing the release of hazardous chemicals and materials along with reducing the proportion of untreated wastewater by 50%.

There has always been a direct correlation between access to safe drinking water, proper treatment and disposal of wastewater and human health. This is evidenced in St Kitts and Nevis by our low infant mortality rate and decreasing incidences of water related gastrointestinal illnesses among our population. This was achieved by providing universal access to clean drinking water, a program of disinfection of the Federation's water supply and onsite treatment of wastewater.

Wastewater is defined as 'liquid waste discharged by domestic residences, commercial properties, industry and agriculture which oftentimes contain contaminants'. Sewage is but one form of wastewater.

Wastewater needs to be treated before it is discharged because of the potential negative impacts on the environment. These include the contamination of surface and groundwater resources as well as recreational waters (for example our beaches).

Domestic wastewater in St. Kitts and Nevis is traditionally treated onsite by the use of Septic Tanks and Soak Away Pits. In the Frigate Bay and SEP areas package sewage plants are common as the soil type in that part of the island does not allow for the efficient operation of soak away pits. There are no municipal or central wastewater systems in the Federation except for a wastewater treatment plant in Frigate Bay that treats wastewater from commercial enterprises in that particular area.

The Water Services Department is cognisant of the impact of untreated wastewater on our groundwater and has partnered with stakeholders to provide training to address the construction and management of septic tanks. The Department of Physical Planning and the Development, Control and Planning Board (DCPB) approve the designs and monitor the construction of these systems. The Department of Environment monitors the wastewater streams from commercial and domestic wastewater systems so as to ensure that they are properly managed, operated and meet discharge standards to protect our underground freshwater resources, our marine environment and ultimately the health of our population.

The average water consumption in St. Kitts is 5.0 Million Gallons per day (MGD), it is assumed that 80% or approximately 4.0 Million Gallons (MGD) is eventually discharged as wastewater.

In this period of universal water scarcity and prolonged drought in St. Kitts the United Nations is asking us to focus on the efficient use of our freshwater resources and to treat and capture the wastewater for reuse.

The opportunities from exploiting wastewater as a resource are enormous. Safely managed wastewater is an affordable and sustainable source of water, energy, nutrients and other recoverable materials. It therefore needs to be seen as a resource, rather than a burden to be disposed of.

The demand for water is constantly growing and is rapidly accelerating locally to meet demands in the tourism sector to provide for our cruise ships, hotels and restaurants. There is also an intrinsic link between water, tourism and agriculture.

We are all aware of the ongoing drought conditions throughout the region to which my Ministry responded promptly by investing in several emergency projects to bring relief to residents. For example a $200,000.00 dollar water supply improvement project provided assistance to the residents of Saddlers who suffered for months without running water at the peak of the drought. A well was re-commissioned in Lodge Village, a pump installed at Cedar Grove along with other system improvements island wide, aimed at bringing relief to our residents. These interventions came at a total cost of over $500,000.00 dollars.

Several other short and medium term projects are underway as we endeavour to address the current water deficit in St Kitts. A $14 Million dollar Deep Well Drilling Project was signed in January 2015 and was expected within 1 year to add another 2.0 Million Gallons of water per day (MGD) to the Basseterre system and alleviate our water woes in the short term.  However owing to delays in this Deep Well Drilling Project your Team Unity Administration contracted the services of Ocean Earth Technologies (OET) to conduct a parallel project in order to provide another 1.0 Million Gallons (MGD) of Water per day to augment our water supply in the Basseterre Valley Area.

Ocean Earth Technologies has experience in St. Kitts having done extensive consulting work in the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Wellfield Area (BVA) during Phase I of the IWCAM Project which was funded by UNEP in 2007.

In the meantime my Ministry embarked upon a $600,000.00 dollar Water Supply Improvement Project to build redundancy in the Phillips to Mansion system. Excess water from the Mansion Well is now being pumped all the way to Phillips and Molineux, this will correct the intermittent supply that was experienced in those communities. The project is now completed and even in the midst of the dry season, farmers in the Mansion area, the CARDI Research Facility and the Primate Research Facility at Estridge are now enjoying more reliability in their water supply.

Looking forward to 2017 your Team Unity Government has budgeted an additional $500,000 dollars ($0.5M) for improvement of the existing water vehicle fleet, additionally $2.3 Million dollars have been allocated for the construction of storage tanks in the Boyds/ West Farm areas so as to provide a more reliable supply for the developments in that area also to augment the supply at the Ross University School of Veterinary Medicine (RUVM).

Furthermore my Ministry is committed to providing piped water access to all homes in St. Kitts (under the Universal Access to Water Project). To this end we have started a second phase of island wide surveys to determine the number and location of households that are without this basic amenity. We pledge to roll out this project in the coming months.

The Department of Agriculture has identified the availability of irrigation water as the critical factor retarding the growth of the sector on the island. The reuse of wastewater is thus a viable option to address the present deficit in agriculture.

No doubt to help to maximise yields to meet demand, usage of chemical fertilizers and pesticides is increasing, both in industrial and small farming, making agriculture a potential source of environmental pollution.

Thus came the declaration of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Wellfield Area as a National Park and protected area in an effort to limit human activity in that area and protect the 2.5 MGD or 40% of our total accessible freshwater resource from contamination from domestic and agricultural wastes.

We encourage our farmers to look into non-conventional water resources like wastewater re-use and rainwater harvesting. If applied safely, wastewater is a valuable source of both water and nutrients and when mixed with harvested water it can enhance the water quality and contribute to water and food security and livelihood improvements. 

Improved wastewater management can improve the health of workers, especially in agriculture, by reducing the risk of pathogen (disease causing microorganisms) exposure. It can also create direct and indirect jobs in water-dependent sectors and beyond. We are happy to note that the major tourism developments coming on stream all are proposing to invest in modern and efficient wastewater systems and all are committed to re-use same for irrigation and other uses.

The Water Services Department sits on a steering committee which is mandated to formulate the terms of reference for the New Basseterre High School's design. The overarching concept envisages a model green school. This school will sit on the fringes or downstream of the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Well Field and will be a model school with all the amenities to provide sustainable use of water and energy whilst allowing minimal impact on the aquifer. The school will harvest rainwater, treat its wastewater and re-use the wastewater for irrigation of a school farm and toilet facilities.

This model should allay the fears of residents of the potential negative impacts on the freshwater resources in the Basseterre Valley Aquifer Wellfield Area.

This year, the Water Services Department will be hosting a week of activities to celebrate World Water Day. The staff of the department will be engaging the communities by visiting both primary and secondary schools, and appearing on local radio and television programmes to discuss the importance of water in our daily lives during the week of March 22nd. We will discuss the opportunity to reduce our water use and set the parameters for the re-use of wastewater.

On Wednesday March 22nd, World Water Day, there will be a Handing Over Ceremony for a fleet of four (4) new vehicles to the Water Services Department (WSD). These vehicles will assist in the continuing replacement of the derelict fleet that for several years have negatively impacted upon staff response times and presented both health and safety risks for their occupants.

For that reason my Ministry is proud that it has fulfilled its commitment to improving the conditions under which the Water Services Department's (WSDs) employees are transported to their work sites. This represents the second consignment of vehicles, as the first was handed over last year.  It thus brings the total to nine (9) brand new vehicles that have been procured for the WSD since the Team Unity Administration was elected to office in 2015.

As part of World Water Week there will be a Round Table discussion on ZIZ TV on Thursday March 23rd, the topic for discussion is 'Why Waste Water in Homes and Businesses'.  Staff from the Water Services Department, accompanied by staff from other Ministries or Stakeholders and Private Entities will collaborate on an island wide 'WaterCade' on Saturday March 25th. The objective of this activity is to highlight and promote the sustainable use of our water resources including the option for re-use.

Thirty (30) minute stop-overs will be made in several communities in order to answer questions also to interact with residents.

I therefore encourage you not to use water wastefully; implement water conservation practices in your household, repair leaky taps and toilets, report incidents of abuse or misuse of water and report any visible leaks from pipelines or standpipes, via telephone # 465-8000.  I also implore you to catch rainwater for irrigating your gardens or to wash your vehicles, pay attention to your waste disposal and remember to reuse waste water. Pay your water bill and respect signage and rules established by the Water Services Department.  When you open your taps today, think about where the water came from and the work it took to get it to you and your family and how much of it can be recovered for other use because many people worldwide are not as fortunate as we are here in the Federation.

In closing, let me again remind you of the theme for this years' celebration of World Water Day on March 22: "Wastewater-Why Waste Water". This is a call for action; for all of us to work together to manage and utilize our water resources in a sustainable manner also to consider wastewater as a critical and reusable link in the water cycle. Come and join us during our week of activities and you will get to know more about how the sustainable management of this precious resource can lead to the sustainable island state we have pledged to create.

Let us all work together to ensure that there will be an adequate supply of water for generations to come. We encourage you to bear with us during this period of drought but do rest assured that we are working assiduously to address the current situation. We thank you for your patience and tolerance during this period and do apologise for the ongoing service interruptions in Cayon, Keys, St Peters and Basseterre and its environs but you can be reassured that relief is around the corner.  I thank you and may God continue to bless our beloved Federation.

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