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CAWASA Accelerating Change To Solve the Caribbean’s Ongoing Water, Sewage Problems

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by Earl Bousquet

Today, March 22 is World Water Day.

The 2023 theme, designated by the United Nations (UN) is: ‘Accelerating the Change to Solve the Water and Sanitation Crisis.’

Another sub-theme is ‘Groundwater: Making the Invisible Visible’ — and both apply across the Caribbean.

This year, World Water Day also coincides with the UN’s annual World Water Conference in New York, taking place today with the Caribbean widely represented.

The Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association (CAWASA), which unites related national entities, is continuing a months-long series of training courses in ‘Wastewater Treatment and Wastewater Collection’ to benefit four CARICOM member-states (Barbados, Belize, Grenada and Saint Lucia).

The regional project, entitled ‘Water and Wastewater Capacity Building Program in the Caribbean,’ is being implemented by CAWASA in collaboration with the Operators Without Borders (OWB), a Canadian non-profit group of water and wastewater volunteers.

CAWASA’s Saint Lucia-based Executive Director Ignatius Jean says the project was initiated on May 23, 2022 when the UN’s Environment Program (UNEP) and CAWASA signed a Small-Scale Funding Agreement (SSFA) under the GEF CReW + Project.

Its overall objective is: “To strengthen the capacity-building initiatives in the Caribbean Region by supporting the regional Water and Wastewater Operator training program currently being implemented by CAWASA.”

Another aim is: “To prepare a cadre of wastewater operators for the Water Professionals International (WPI) Certification.”

It also involves: “Training and certifying utility operators and enhancing their ability to carry out operations and maintenance procedures according to industry standards, no matter the complexity or simplicity of their operation.”

‘Train-the-Trainer’ workshops also develop cadres of qualified regional water and wastewater personnel, to conduct tutorials for Certification Examinations and Continuing Education Credit courses.

The project involves five-day workshops in each country and got under way with the first round of training in ‘Wastewater Collection’ in Saint Lucia (January 16-20) and continued in Barbados (January 23-27), Grenada (February 13 to 17) and Belize (February 20-24).

The second round of training, in ‘Wastewater Treatment’, returned to Barbados (February 27 – March 3), Saint Lucia and Belize (March 20-24).

Facilitators for this week’s session in Saint Lucia are Shantelle Clarke and Valerie Jenkinson from Operators Without Borders (OWB) and Ian McIlwham (also of OWB) in Belize.

Participating utilities are the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), the National Water and Sewerage Authority (NAWASA) of Grenada, the Belize Water Services Ltd (BWS) and Saint Lucia’s Water and Sewerage Company Inc (WASCO).

As the world’s water demand continues to outstrip supply, rich nations have joined the poor in experiencing the increasingly-excessive effects of accelerated Climate Change and Global warming.

But the Caribbean is well-placed to farm and harvest water for today and tomorrow, so the likes of CAWASA and its members, with their regional and international partners, are pressing ahead, before and after World Water Day, with advanced plans to better protect and preserve, farm and harvest the one resource everyone, everywhere agrees is ‘Life’.

Rainwater continues to drain and waste off roofs while farmers continue to suffer during droughts; and dams continue to shrink or bust, creating or worsening water crises for millions.

Over the past decade, Caribbean water utilities have made great strides towards achieving the targets of the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals — specifically SDG 6: Ensure Availability and Sustainable Management of Water and Sanitation for All by 2030.

In the Caribbean, piped water coverage is high, averaging over 90 percent.

However, scarcity of fresh water in the region is an emerging issue according to the World Resources Institute as seven (7) of the 37 most water-scarce countries in the world are in the Caribbean.

This situation is compounded by the high levels of Non-Revenue Water (NRW) which exists in most water utilities in the Caribbean. (NRW is the difference between water supplied and water sold or “lost”, expressed as a percentage of net water supplied).

This week, the Government of Trinidad & Tobago is hosting the Caribbean Regional Conference on Water Loss 2023 in collaboration with the International Water Association (IWA), Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA), and the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA).

In addition, the Regional Consortium of partners in the water sector such as CAWASA, CWWA, the IDB, CDB, UN Environment (Caribbean), CIMH, GWP-C, continue the implementation of the Regional Strategic Action for Governance and Building Resilience in the Water Sector in the Caribbean (RSAP).

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