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  Yves Bourel has been living in St. Barts for more than 10 years. He is an experienced journalist and has been the editor-in-chief for a local newspaper. He will be presenting the local news every 2 weeks for St. Barths Online!
  June 21, 2001 - Issue # 1
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  Water, at last
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  It seems that one of the island's most perennial-and bothersome- problems, has now been resolved. Since the beginning of June, potable water is once again flowing through the arteries of the island's water system. As a result, even residents in windward-side neighborhoods (Cul-de-Sac, Toiny, Marigot, Vitet, Deve and Grand Fond), deprived of potable water for many long, hot weeks, are getting some relief when they turn on the water faucet.
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  For more than a decade, island residents have resigned themselves to the fact that year in and year out, water is a scarce commodity during the dry summer months. And, everybody acts accordingly. The shortage of potable water in St. Barth is nothing new, but the problem took a singular turn for the worse this year because it began six months ahead of schedule. The situation is simple enough to explain: year after year, consumption has consistently outdistanced production. The three desalinization units in Public produce a daily ration of 1200 cubic meters of potable water. The demand usually hovers around 1500 cubic meters, shooting up to more than 2000 cubic meters during high season. Residents are typically able to stock enough water in their cisterns to cover their needs, provided they are frugal water managers and even more importantly, that Nature cooperates by sending some rain. And that's what did it. Though the average yearly rainfall is about 967 millimeters, the island received only 633 millimeters of precipitation last year, making 2000 one of the driest year in the last half century.
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  Rain didn't fall in the cisterns, and it didn't fall in either one of the water reservoirs in Colombier or Vitet. As cisterns began to dry out, residents had no choice but to turn to the island's potable water supply. In December, cisterns in many island neighborhoods were already empty, making life challenging for island residents and business owners alike. Ordinances restricted the use of water, and activities like washing the car and watering the garden were blacklisted. A weekly water distribution program was put into effect by the public water works company in an effort to equitably supply the island's entire network through the shortage.
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  Then, elections rolled around. The water crisis took on a political slant, but the mayoral campaign attention didn't alleviate the problem. One of the solutions that was proposed, and one that had been used in the past, was to have desalinated water shipped to St. Barth. The Public Health Department's skepticism, in addition to the complications entailed in meeting the hygienic conditions that had been stipulated by the Health Department, led to the abandon of this option in favor of a more feasible solution. The local water production company was able, at last to temporarily rent a small, 400 cubic meter desalinization unit from the US Virgin Islands. The unit was installed on the commercial quay and has been operating at full capacity since the beginning of June. Though it still hasn't rained, at least, now, island residents can fill their cisterns again.
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  The St. Barth water crisis of 2000/2001 should be the last of its kind. An additional water plant with a daily production capacity of 1200 cubic meters and a new 900-cubic meter reservoir should be begin functioning sometime this August. That comes as good news for everyone who can now expect to have potable water year-round, even during prolonged periods of drought.

  More to come,

  Yves Bourel


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