– Potential impact of climate change on water resources affects economic growth and human security
By Rabindra Rooplall
If persons living within the Caribbean do not want to be swimming in feces in the future, or recycle waste water to drink, then serious considerations must be implemented to prevent the effects of Climate Change and Water Security.
Of all the water on Earth, 97.5% is salt water, leaving only 2.5% as fresh water for a population of over seven billion human beings.
In a bid to underscore the seriousness of what is occurring worldwide, the Global Water Partnership Caribbean (GWP-C) under its Water, Climate and Developmental Programme, concluded a two-day regional workshop yesterday for stakeholders to highlight sustainable development and management of their water resources resulting from the effects of climate change.
The confab was hosted at the Hilton Hotel, Trinidad. The meeting was titled Caribbean Media and Youth Workshop on Water Security and Climate Change.
It aimed to develop activities and programmes to build awareness and capacity among stakeholders at all levels on integrated water resources management (IWRM).
In attendance were representatives from Antigua, Dominican Republic, Saint Lucia, Saint Vincent, Jamaica, Trinidad, Saint Kitts, Grenada, Guyana, Barbados, Suriname, Bahamas and Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN).
According to project manager of GWP-C, Dr. Natalie Boodram, overall water security is an emerging challenge, which the present institutional frameworks and enabling environments are increasingly ill-equipped to deal with. Although many governments acknowledge the need for change and to develop plans, existing efforts to put these plans into practice have not proved sufficient.
She explained that regional interventions have failed to get off the ground and national-level interventions have fared little better. The main challenge facing regional approaches is diversity, and so water resources management should focus on developing common frameworks and standards.
It was further brought out in the workshop, that climate change studies suggest that there will be drier and longer dry seasons across most of the Caribbean basin in the future. When rain does fall, the rainfall events are likely to be heavy downpours which will increase the likelihood of flooding. Increased temperatures, more intense hurricanes and sea level rise are also expected.
Such changes, Dr. Boodram emphasized will affect the fresh water resources of every nation in the region. As sea levels rise, there will be a greater likelihood of saltwater intrusion into underground fresh water systems along coastal areas. This threat of saltwater contamination will leave the Caribbean islands especially vulnerable, as many depend heavily on groundwater for their drinking supplies.
To counter such a situation, rainwater harvesting is being promoted by GWP-C, as a technique to augment existing potable municipal supplies, and as a readily accessible emergency source of water in case of natural disasters like hurricanes and floods, which may disrupt access to the main municipal water supply. Rainwater harvesting is seen as one of the means of building climate resilience into the water sector in the Caribbean.
The organization recognises the potential impact of climate change on water resources, and aims to promote water security and climate resilience in Caribbean states as a key part of sustainable regional and national development for economic growth and human security.
In the face of concerns about climate change and water scarcity, rainwater harvesting could be set to make a comeback in the Caribbean, becoming a formal part of the region’s strategic planning. The GWP-C’s Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP) recognises rainwater harvesting as one of the possible approaches to securing the region’s water supplies.
“Rainwater harvesting is one of the important tools to ensure resilience in Caribbean water supplies, in particular to augment existing municipal water supplies.” Dr. Boodram underscored.
It was noted within the workshop that some of the Caribbean’s water scarce countries have made significant investments in desalination plants which convert seawater to fresh water. However, desalination comes at a significant cost due to the high energy inputs needed and desalination plants remain vulnerable to disruption during times of disaster.
It is important to build redundancy into Caribbean water supplies by ensuring access to multiple sources of water if one supply is disrupted. Thus, if desalination is used at a national level, rainwater can provide an additional, alternative and emergency supply at the household level.
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