Ambergris Caye “may face water shortage” during the High Season
There is a high possibility that islanders “may face a water shortage” during the high season come Easter. That’s the message communicated to the San Pedro Business Association (SPBA) by Dee Dillon, General Manager of Consolidated Water Belize Limited (CWBL) who is asking that a water conservation initiative be conducted.
In his letter dated December 27, 2011 to SPBA, Dillon wrote, “[...] you can imagine my concern when I learned that we can only make enough water to barely cover demands.” The demands are those currently being used by water consumers. With the expectation of an influx of tourists arriving at Easter, it is expected that consumption will go up, causing more demand for water on the island. “For at least the last four years this island has been walking the razor’s edge and I don’t want to be a Pollyanna (raise alarm) but when production = demand there is a serious water capacity problem by 50% -100%,” explained Dillon.
During the 2011 Christmas holiday CWBL says that their water plant produced between 440,000 to 460,000 gallons per day. With that production capacity, CWBL was barely able to maintain 21 feet of water in their reserve tank. Most of the water produced was sent to the Belize Water Service Limited’s (BWS) tank which barely had enough to supply the islanders.
CWBL is the only contracted water supplier from who BWSL is allowed to purchase water to resell to consumers on the island. BWSL has a minimum water contractual agreement to consume 290,000 gallons per day. According to BWS Chief Executive Officer Alvan Haynes, they required a little over 500, 000 gallons per day. “I am a bit surprise that Consolidated would be expressing concerns on that since they are the pump-water provider. They are the ones that have the plant,” said Haynes. According to Haynes, in 2005 BWS had appealed for an increase in CWBL plant capacity which they documented, requesting that they (CWBL) could provide up to 600,000 gallons per day. More recently in 2010 after the water quality and water shortage problem, Haynes said that CWBL stated that their maximum capacity is 420,000 gallons per day. “The concern is that demands may actually jump the 550,000 gallons per day during the peak season,” explained Haynes, an estimated 100,000 gallons per day more than what CWBL can actually provide. While a binding contract indicates a minimum quantity of water BWSL must buy from CWBL per day, Haynes pointed out that the contract states that CWBL should be able to provide at least 550,000 gallons of water per day. During the slow season water consumption fluctuates but Haynes indicated that on average over 300,000 gallons of water is being consumed per day on Ambergris Caye.
The contract, which was signed in 2004, also required that Consolidated install a 1 million gallon storage tank. Combined with BWSL storage, there should be 1.3 million gallons of water storage which can last at least three days should there be a water crisis. By all indications, from the correspondence, CWBL has not gained any meaningful storage as they are barely producing water to meet the daily demands.
After facing a water shortage in December 2010, BWSL had requested that CWBL increase their capacity production to 550,000 gallons per day. Based on the 2004 contract, BWSL cannot make their own water and must depend on their sole provider CWBL on Ambergris Caye. “Their choice as to what their plant capacity is is within their control,” explained Haynes.
And while Haynes aggresses that it is all enough reason for SPBA and residents to be concerned, they are held on to a contract with CWBL. Haynes indicated the concern is something Consolidated should address since they are the ones producing the water.
CWBL, in their correspondent to the SPBA indicated that “lower water rates generally result in higher consumption and less emphasis on conservation. Given the coming 7.2% drop in rates we might see more water use in the “baseline” in addition to the dramatic increases in demand during the high season,” explained Dillon. “If we have a high season with as little as 5%-10% increase in demand…. we will in all likely not be able to meet that demand,” indicated Dillon in his letter to SPBA.
At this time the Belize Tourism Board is predicting an increase in overnight tourism arrivals in Belize, a large amount of those will choose San Pedro as their destination. For that reason CWBL is advising SBPA to inform their membership that “they should do their best to inform guests/residents that conserving water is fundamental, especially during high season,” says the correspondence.
While educating the general populace and visitors about water conservation is a short term solution, CWBL has not indicated how they intend to address the situation on a long term. As the sole water producer on Ambergris Caye, they have yet to indicate how they intend to increase water production to accommodate the growing demands of BWS’s consumers. CWBL’s General Manager Dee Dillon promised to get back in contact with The San Pedro Sun, but as of press time, we have not received a response to our request for an interview.
In response to this developing uncertainty BWS has issued the following Press Release
BWS CLARIFIES INFORMATION ON SAN PEDRO WATER SUPPLY
February 22, 2012
Belize Water Services (BWS) has recently been made aware of media coverage from San Pedro indicating a concern of a possible water shortage on the island during times of peak demand. BWS is committed by a contract agreement to purchase all water for distribution in San Pedro from Consolidated Water Belize Limited (CWBL). BWS has been requesting CWBL since 2005 to increase its capacity to adequately deliver water to the island based on growth projections.
Our records show that as part of our recent Water Demand Review completed in January 2011, BWS requested CWBL to implement a maximum plant capacity of up to 550,000 gallons per day. However, CWBL proposed a maximum plant capacity of 420,000 gallons per day.
BWS is totally committed to providing an adequate supply of potable water to each of its service areas and is especially aware of the importance of adequate water supply to San Pedro, our country’s largest tourist destination. In light of this unwavering commitment, BWS believes that any water shortage in the near future would be owing to CWBL, for their own reasons, not accepting our recommendations for the increased water production capacity.
One of BWS’ main objectves is to provide high quality service at a reasonable price to customers. We pride ourselves in being fair to all consumers and ensuring customers’ satisfaction, which clearly necessitates an uninterrupted supply of water. BWS assures all our customers and consumers in San Pedro that we have plans in progress to ensure adequate water capacity for the continued growth of Ambergris Caye.
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For more information regarding this or any other BWS Release, please contact:
Corporate Communications at Tel: 222-4757 Ext. 317 or 281
or via e-mail at firstname.lastname@example.org
San Pedro Sun