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Caribbean Water Agencies Urged to Form Urgent Partnerships

Executive Director of CAWASA, Ignatius Jean
Executive Director of CAWASA, Ignatius Jean

Regional water agencies have been urged to work together to address common problems affecting and threatening Caribbean water supply – and show more appreciations for the water operators who ensure the Water of Life flows through taps each time they’re opened in every household.

The urgings came during a just-concluded high-level three-day Caribbean Water Operators conference organized by the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association (CAWASA) and hosted by the Barbados Water Authority (BWA), under the theme Operators: Pillars of Recovery and Resilience.

The 7th Caribbean Water Conference 2023 was held June 28-30 at the Lloyd Erskine Sandiford Centre in Bridgetown, with an opening ceremony addressed by Barbados’ Deputy Prime Minister and the Executive Director of CAWASA, the BWA President and representatives of public and private water operators and related agencies.

Executive Director of CAWASA, Ignatius Jean, said while water operators play a vital role in providing running water, it was unfortunate that the only time they are remembered “is when the water stops running”.

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Jean said the conference was “an acknowledgement of the work water operators do to keep the water utilities functioning.”

He noted that CAWASA, which represents 12 publicly-owned Caribbean water utility companies, “lives and thrives through partnerships.”

He encouraged operators attending to “share experiences and network…”

Also lauding regional water operators for their work over the past years, the CAWASA Executive Director praised their responses to natural disasters during the COVID-19 pandemic.

“During these trying times, the water sector played a key role, displaying resilience and sheer determination to meet the needs of the people of the Caribbean,” Jean said.

Regional Water and wastewater utility companies and agencies were also encouraged at the conference to foster consistent cooperation amongst themselves in an effort to strengthen the regional industry.

Barbados’ Deputy Prime Minister and Minister of Transport, Works and Water Resources, Santia Bradshaw, addressing over 100 delegates from Barbados, the Caribbean, the USA and the UK, she acknowledged that “while there was cooperation amongst local agencies within individual countries, this needed to be strengthened at the regional level.”

She said, “Even though some limitations may prevent us from always being on the cutting edge of technology, there is no excuse for us reneging on joint regional initiatives that see us pooling resources, whether human, financial, inventory, or otherwise.”

The Deputy PM continued, “There is clear evidence of consistent cooperation between water and wastewater establishments and other agencies within individual countries. The next step should be fostering consistent cooperation within the region.”

Minister Bradshaw added, “We can only grow stronger together” and “it is essential for regional utilities and stakeholders to engage in joint discussions and planning sessions, rather than working separately with various bodies.”

Chairman of the Barbados Water Authority, David Wright, expressed gratitude to CAWASA for choosing Barbados for the conference.

He pointed out that “The Caribbean region has repeatedly shown that even with limited resources, once the islands and organisations partner in lending assistance in crisis or emergency situations, it can recover.”

The conference covered topics such as: Bridging the Gap between Science and Wastewater Operators for Resilience Systems and The Caribbean Water Sector in a Post-Pandemic Climate.

It also included a Water Operators Competition at the Golden Ridge Station, with contestants comparing and competing in interesting and educational displays like Pipe-Laying and Joining, Service Connections and Installation of Valves.