27 November 2008

Caribbean Water

LR says [edited]:
"I live in the Caribbean, and our countries often have water shortages. So -- while we don't have the financial problems of many other countries -- we know about fresh water scarcity. On my island (Antigua), drought is almost guaranteed every year. If a hurricane hits, the problem goes to another level because our resources get heavily contaminated.

I think this puts us in a unique situation where we understand the value of the resource that most of the world sees as free.

Seeing that we are surrounded by sea water, desalination seems like the best way to solve our problem but then comes PRICE. It seems that desalination plants are overly expensive. I know by now you are wondering what the point of this email is. So I will waste no more of your time.

I would like your opinion on the best way to provide the country or even the region with water."
I'm not so sure that the Caribbean is so different from the rest of the world. On the one hand, everyone wants to live there. On the other hand, water supplies are stressed, vulnerable to natural shocks and expensive to augment.

In other words, demand exceeds supply.

So my answer is the same as always: Raise prices to reduce demand. I am guessing that most freshwater on most Caribbean islands goes to residential use (not too much irrigated agriculture), so the impact of higher prices will be limited -- unless it forces people to move elsewhere. (I would not be surprised to learn that far more people live on these islands than did 50 or 100 years ago.)

So what about the supply side? Well, desalination is one option. Another option is importing fresh water (probably from South America) with ships or water bags. A third option is to increase the quantity and quality of local water sources by, e.g., protecting springs from contamination, storing more rainwater in reservoirs and cisterns, and fixing leaking pipes.

I am, of course, available to consult at any location in the Caribbean (even Haiti!)

Bottom Line: Charge more for water to reduce demand and then use that money to increase supply.

1 comment:

redinhawaii said...

Have you done any looking into the research done by Earthwater Technology Team.
you might find that interesting and supportive