Over the past months Belize had experienced an extreme drought that impacted the agriculture industry in Belize. The Belize Water Services Limited, during their public meeting last night, noted that farmers were not the only ones suffering from the drought. According to Dave Pascasio, Operations Manager, the company was greatly impacted in the west by the drought.
Dave Pascasio, Operations Manager, BWS: “We are experiencing an increase in extreme climate with result in increased risk to infrastructure and assets and possible lower demand due to risk of household assets. The video we’re about to see in the next slide sees the effect of the drought on the river in San Ignacio and Santa Elena which also supplies our well field for that municipality. What we’ve seen this year is that due to the low level in the river our production capacity fell by 40% and we were struggling to meet demand, we had to drill additional wells and we actually had to change all the filter media from the river to the wells to increase the supply to the supply from those wells so it’s very challenging. We’re doing a study on the Belize River, we started five years ago, that we look at the salt water wedge and it’s projection up the Belize River towards our double run water treatment plant; we started that study in 2015 and what this year’s result is showing is that the wedge went up some six miles further up that river than it did last year so it went all the way to the Burrell Boom Bridge. That is significant for us because that water treatment plant cannot treat saline water and the proximity of that bridge to the double run water treatment plant is 6.34 river miles so that’s extremely worrying for us. What sort of gives us some comfort is that the terrain rises significantly from the bridge to the Double Run water treatment plant. What we are hoping is that the rains will come and all the aquifers and watersheds will replenish what it usually is at the start of any dry season and if that does not happen this year then we are predicting that next year a shorter dry season would have an adverse effect on the water supply systems in Belize.”
The Chairman of the Public Utilities Commission, John Avery, told BWSL that they must come up with a better climate change resilient plan.
John Avery, Public Utilities Commission Chairman: “There was mention of BECOL and the water in the dam I would suggest to BWS that you need to find a long term solution to some of the issues you may have when there are drought conditions. If that dam wasn’t there there would be no water behind the dam and that dam has certain operational parameters that must be adhered to or we don’t only jeopardize the water supply but also the electricity supply. So I would recommend to BWS that you seriously look at the issues you have at the intake for those treatment centers on the Belize River because I don’t think you can rely on BECOL to flood that river, that would threaten the operations there and threaten the entire electricity system so that is something you seriously need to consider going forward.”
BWSL noted that despite their challenges faced they managed to install over 160 miles of new mains and increase customer connections by 15% in the past 5 years.