Potable water, rainwater harvesting, efficient irrigation, waste water treatment and recycling, water use efficiency, desalination.
Background to Water Management
The current and projected impacts on Caribbean water resources due to climate change are decidedly negative. For example Taylor et al26 noted some impacts of a drought in Guyana during 2009/2010 stating “Up to 35% of rice fields left uncultivated. US$1.3 million spent to operate irrigation pumps (US$ 16,000/day). About 150 acres irrigated with salt water in desperation. In 2010 alone, over 100,000 acres experienced water stress, prompting government investment of over US$30 million.”
The consensus view, based on the research done with regard to Caribbean climate change impact scenarios, is that the Caribbean will become markedly drier over the long term – rainfall will decline by an annual average of 30% and that that decline will be most significant in the traditional rainy season. Coupled with rising sea levels and higher average temperatures, the projected overall result of these threats is significantly lower levels of water security and an increased need for responsive, innovative water management solutions to provide potable water and water for commercial, industrial and agricultural needs.
Opportunities in Water Management
Rainwater harvesting at the individual residence level is well-established in some countries. However, little emphasis is placed upon the subsequent treatment and recycling of grey water, for example. This presents opportunities for developing integrated harvesting, efficiency and reuse/recycling systems for maximizing the utilization of water in households.
The use of desalination as an option for the provision of potable water in the region is growing. St Georges University in Grenada, for example, produces all of the water consumed on its True Blue campus at its own desalination plant and desalination is a predominant means of water supply in countries like Barbados.27 While desalination offers a renewable option for water supply to meet growing demands, particularly for island countries, it also has high economic, environmental, and energy costs – for example, the extensive use of desalination may increase fossil fuel dependence and GHG emissions.28 Demonstrating a way to avoid this, a 2011 World Bank Global Environment Facility (GEF) project on Bequia, St Vincent & the Grenadines29 has installed 75.9 kWp of solar photovoltaics to power a ‘carbon neutral reverse osmosis desalination plant’ that supplies water to the coastal village of Paget Farm. The PV system was installed by Grenada Solar Power Ltd (Grensol) and Juwi Solar Power GmbH of Wörrstadt, Germany.
One of the growing potable water trends in the region – the increasing use of bottled water for personal consumption - is not sustainable in the long-term. Much of the product is imported,30 the production process is energy and water-intensive31 and container waste disposal and recycling mechanisms are not in widespread use. This opens up opportunities for innovation to make an impact.
Irrigation is an underutilized practice in the region, but has been identified as a vital part of the climate adaptation response. Therefore, the design and development of irrigation systems that optimize the harvesting and use of ground, surface and rainfall resources, and incorporating recycling and reuse, will be important aspects in providing sustainable water supplies for agriculture. As water resources become scarcer, real opportunities will be presented to innovators and entrepreneurs in the sector.