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Posted: Thursday 21 March, 2013 at 8:10 PM

Bushfires and their effect on potable water supply

By: Terresa McCall, SKNVibes.com

    BASSETERRE, St. Kitts – SIMILAR to that of other countries in the Caribbean, the lamentation of water officials on St. Kitts is that the island is enduring one of the most serious droughts experienced in years.

     

    And with messages of water conservation being preached from both the mountain tops and the valleys, there is a serious state of affairs that threatens to considerably decrease our capacity to weather the dry spell.

     

    Daily, a unit from the St. Kitts-Nevis Fire and Rescue Department (SKNFD) is despatched to some corner of the island to fight a bushfire. And in some instances, these are dispatched more than once per day.

     

    While this is not the focus of this article, its mention is pertinent in contextualising upcoming statements.

     

    There is no contention that water is an absolute necessity if fires are to be effectively fought. But giving rise to concern is that most, if not all, of these fires are believed to have been set by arsonists. 

     

    Information gathered from the SKNFD suggests that their tender with the least capacity could hold up to 500 gallons of water, and that with the greatest capacity could hold up to 2 000 gallons.

     

    The Fire Department has already informed that 168 bushfires have taken place across the island for 2013, which is more than 50 percent of last year’s figure.

     

    Let us suppose that in responding to each of these fires, an average of 900 gallons was used to extinguish the flames. It stands to reason then, that somewhere in the region of 151 200 gallons were used from January 1 to March 17, 2013 in fighting bushfires.

     

    Juxtaposed to the 5 000 000 gallons of water consumed on the island per day, 151 000 gallons of water (over less than a three month period) might seem to be a mere drop in the bucket. But as an adage suggests, “One-one fills the basket.” And further application of the same principle suggests that, just as easily, the basket is so emptied.

     

    Speaking with SKNVibes, Manager and Engineer of the Water Department, Cromwell Williams indicated that somewhere in the region of 20 percent (1 000 000 gallons) of the island potable water is wasted.

     

    He however noted that if persons make a habit of conserving water and if arsonists refrain from the illegal practice of setting fires, the Water Services Department would be better able to manage the supply.

     

    “Because we expect the dry spell to be for just a short period, we think we can manage what we have in this short period if everyone would conserve, including people who are setting fires. They need to stop setting fires.”

     

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