“Water, water everywhere, nor any drop to drink,” is from the poem The Rime of the Ancient Mariner written by Samuel Taylor Coleridge in 1798. It explains how a sailor on a stranded ship was surrounded by salt water, which is undrinkable.
For decades, people from all across Guyana have experienced this absurdity regarding the lack of potable water in the “land of many waters”. Too many of us grew up without potable water.
It is estimated that about 71 percent of the Earth’s surface is covered by water, most of it in the oceans. However, only one percent is usable by humans and land animals. Obtaining clean water to drink is a problem in many countries of the world, even though water is vital. Between 65-70 percent of the human body is made up of water. People can survive three to four days without water, but a daily intake of about eight pints is needed to stay healthy.
For decades, the poor quality of the water supply in the country has cost the taxpayers billions of dollars for drugs, medication and treatment, and millions of lost man-hours in production of goods and services, due to illnesses and diseases that may have been transmitted through the use of contaminated water.
The inability of past administrations to provide adequate potable water to the residents in the towns and villages has been a problem spanning decades. Yet during that period we must admit that not enough was done to rectify the problem. Many poor children who are adults today had to use boiled water for drinking, given the very poor quality of water that was supplied to them. Whereas, children from wealthy homes used water from filtration systems installed by their parents. Several houses in Georgetown and other municipalities were destroyed by fire because the fire hydrants had no water supply. The Fire Service had to rely primarily on nearby canals and trenches to contain fires.
This government, to its credit, saw the need and importance of potable water to the citizens and the health issues that could result from the lack of it. As a result, it mandated Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) under its Chief Executive Officer (CEO), Dr. Richard Van West-Charles, to solve the longstanding problem throughout the country.
So far, GWI has done an excellent job to have potable water in all of the previously un-served areas. Despite the enormity of the problem and the massive deterioration of the water system, it took the CEO and his team less than two years to significantly upgrade the water purification and distribution system in the city, towns and the rural communities. It is a laudable but necessary and imperative initiative with the ability to impact developments in the country, particularly agriculture, mining and the looming oil and gas sector.
The word ‘potable’ means safe drinking water; and that water is life is an unquestionable fact which GWI has taken seriously in recent times. The utility company has committed to the task of ensuring potable water is carried from the water treatment plants to the kitchen taps in all of the homes in the city, towns and villages.
GWI also has the ability to test its water at various points in the distribution system to determine the level of contamination that occurs after the water has left the utility’s treatment plants. It has equipped regional bodies to independently verify the level of purity of the piped water emanating from its facilities.
For all the criticism the company has rightfully received for its shortcomings over the years, the current professional team at GWI deserves kudos in equal measure.
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