Rainfall patterns in Saint Lucia are changing, and droughts will become more frequent as a result of climate change. Global climate models show a median decrease in annual rainfall of up to 22 percent by the end of the century, while regional climate models suggest a decrease of up to 32 percent.
For a country that has historically largely depended on rivers as a source of water, climate change is quickly shifting Saint Lucia’s ability to wholly depend on this source and is forcing consideration of alternative sources to augment supply. Additionally, climate change poses the threat of stronger hurricanes and other disasters with the potential to cause more serious and prolonged interruptions to the public water supply. The present era of the COVID-19 pandemic combined with a drought and a hyperactive hurricane season make the matter of access to clean, potable water and water security paramount and urgent.
Against this reality, the DVRP CERC includes the procurement and distribution of 371 water tanks of 1,000 gallons each to schools, churches, emergency shelters and other critical Government facilities including police and fire stations, as well as vulnerable households across the island, such as those of the elderly, blind and disabled. The water tanks will help to ensure access to clean water to continue facility and household operations in the face of droughts and water interruptions.
It is the vision of the DVRP that these tanks will eventually be used not just to store water from WASCO for use as an emergency supply, but to create rainwater harvesting systems to collect and store rainwater for a continuous and independent water supply. Some tanks being distributed will immediately be used for this purpose. The procurement and distribution of the water tanks is a model of how Saint Lucia can adapt to climate change while building the economy and creating jobs as all water tanks procured were manufactured locally.
A ceremony to handover the water tanks to the 22 recipient organizations, including some umbrella agencies for further distribution, was held on June 19, 2020. Speaking at the handover ceremony, The Honourable Guy Joseph, Minister for Economic Development, Housing, Urban Renewal, Transport and Civil Aviation said, “Climate change is teaching us that we need to revisit how we do things. Today, I am happy that under the CERC, being the one charged with responsibility for the DVRP (being under the Ministry of Economic Development) that we could have engaged the World Bank in a discussion seeing what had happened with COVID and what was happening with the dry weather pattern [in Saint Lucia].”
In his remarks which vividly chronicled the increased challenges with sufficient water supply from rivers to meet demand, Minister Joseph highlighted the importance of rainwater harvesting and storage of water during the dry season.