Barbados Water Authority: A Failed State Enterprise

water_nitratePrime Minister David Thompson announced in his recent Financial Statement 2009 that water rates will be increased to Barbadians, possibly as soon as next month. Although the Prime Minister has given the assurance that any increase will be negligible, the  impact must be judged by government on how the increase will affect Barbadians who are below the poverty line and businesses that use water as a significant input to production, we would urge the government to thread with care on this matter.

The revelation by the Prime Minister has triggered a side-debate about  the BWA not falling under the oversight of the Fair Trading Commission (FTC), an institution which remains pregnant with promise to consumers well passed its gestation period.  It is our understanding that the current legislation prohibits the FTC from hearing complaints from government enterprises. Our source confirms that there is a move afoot to change the legislation.

BU understands the thinking and motive of the previous to shielding the BWA and by extension the people of Barbados from a privately run BWA. BU can also understand that oversight of the BWA by the political directorate would more readily feel the pressure to keep water rates down. The experience so far of the FTC and LIME, formerly Cable & Wireless has not been a rewarding one for Barbadian consumers. One shudders to think if the BWA were privatized where would the water rate settle.

The dilemma for the government at this time is the need for the BWA to urgently improve cashflow and capital funding. It is well documented that the BWA is near insolvent, there is high delinquency and obsolete management practices and systems. The greatest concern and in our view the most germane is its inefficient pipe distribution network which is said to be leaking upwards to 60% of water into the earth. The deterioration of the distribution network has been known based on our recollection for at minimum two decades.

Two related issues which should enter the discussion on improving water management in Barbados are,  the continuing reliance on fossil based energy to power the BWA pumping stations and reservoirs. More importantly is the high level of nitrate seeping into our water supply. While we accept that the current nitrate reading is not at the danger mark, it is closer to the danger mark when compared to the reading of 10 years ago. We understand that the high level of pesticides used in agriculture, and chemicals used to treat our increasing number of golf courses is posing a serious threat to water quality. The recent practice of squatting in Zone 1 areas only adds to the problem for the BWA management to guarantee quality water.

The issue of a water management policy or should we say strategy  needs to take on high level priority in Barbados. Water is a life sustaining mineral which human beings cannot exist without. The concern by Barbadians at the growing negative reputation which the BWA has been attracting to rival WASA in Trinidad has now become a national embarrassment. Regrettably the leadership which is required by the goodly Minister Dr. Dennis Lowe responsible for the BWA  has been missing so far in his tenure on the front bench. Here is an opportunity for Lowe to make a mark by delivering a sensible comprehensive policy position on improving water management in Barbados.

The many complaints from water consumers which have been rising in recent months is symptomatic of the lack of leadership demonstrated at the BWA in the last twenty years. Earlier governments must take responsibility for the mess at the BWA. One remembers in the 80s when the BWA was well funded but analogous to what is happening now with NIS funds being transferred to shore-up financially ailing  government departments.


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63 Comments on “Barbados Water Authority: A Failed State Enterprise”

  1. David June 17, 2009 at 10:41 PM #

    By coincidence after we posted this blog we heard a news clip on radio where the PM said to Barbadians to leave the BWA alone. How can you make such a request Prime Minister?

    The people have had to tolerate the mediocrity of the BWA for years straddling two governments now.

    We have a right to be disgusted at the mismanagement of this important resource.


  2. Paradox June 18, 2009 at 12:20 AM #

    You’re so right David, an excellent post! A small Island, with low rainfall and where most rain water runs into the sea.
    For many years, the problem with leakage has been overlooked. I can recall countless number of times reporting bursts and weeks later the problem still exists.
    Who is accountable?
    It is high time someone is made accountable.
    Barbados is known to take a ‘laid-back attitude’ to many things, although it can be seen to be in urgent need of attention.
    David you made reference to ‘nitrates’ and other chemicals in the water. This I believe is known for some time. I can recall a ‘person in the know’ identified a parish where the worse polluted drinking water can be found.
    Government ministers past and present are fully aware of the chemicals used on golf courses and agricultural lands, making its way into the food chain, and little is being done to rectify this.
    It is a sad affair that government officials have been elected to office in the hope of protecting it citizens and have done little in this regard.
    Majority of us cannot afford to buy bottle water, so we must drink what we can afford.
    There are modern pumps,more efficient in their usage of electricity, could save countless of money which ultimately can go toward improving the industry; but like most things, it’s easy to sit back and wait.


  3. David June 18, 2009 at 1:18 AM #


    There is a lot more that we could have included but the authorities know what’s wrong. Yes as a country we have achieved so much but there are some areas where we have not moved forward in the last 15-20 years.  The key ones in our view are as follows:

    implementing a water management strategy which fits to the goal of Barbados reaching for first world status

    implementing a parallel energy strategy which would have facilitated a significant reduction in Barbados reliance on fossil based energy

    enforcing a land use policy which would have ensured that our physical development would not have compromised our island beauty. Now the next generation of Barbadians will have to be satisfied from pictures and video

    So yes Paradox we have accomplished so much if we used the definition of the economist in the last 15-20 years but our willingness to compromise on continuing the vision of people like Grantley Adams and Errol Barrow has now positioned Barbados at the cross roads. To ensure that we are able to sustain a quality way of life for our people the narrow partisan space which both parties seem happy to operate within will have to stop.

    We have to say that it is a struggle to remain optimistic.


  4. John June 18, 2009 at 1:39 AM #

    Like agriculture in Barbados, water is taken lightly and only what is seen is discussed.

    A burst pipe like a field run away in bush or about to be “developed” correctly incite us to words because something is obviously wrong, but these are symptons of deeper problems.

    Very complex processes much of which by their nature are hidden from view, and not by any effort of man, determine how well or badly these two sectors perform.

    I would not for one moment suggest that the BWA is perfect in its management practices but the more I dig into the processes which underlie the supply of water in Barbados the more I am amazed by what the folks at the BWA have accomplished, particularly in the past 15 to 20 years.

    The major threats to a 24/7 water supply in Barbados arise from flawed strategic thinking, not from tactical day to day activity, and much of the flawed strategic thinking occurs well above the heads at the BWA.

    …. and by the way, the supply of water in Barbados used to be in private hands.

    By the 1900’s Government had to step in to make it work, ….. and that was on a pretty basic level and for a small fraction of the population.


  5. WHAT???! June 18, 2009 at 5:59 AM #

    David …. you stated words to the effect that PM Thompson has told Bajans to “leave the BWA alone”. I did not once hear him say that when it was shown on CBC TV News last night. In fact, he said the very OPPOSITE! He stated that Bajans were fed up with the mediocre service from the BWA. But don’t take my word – just read the report in The Nation today.


  6. David June 18, 2009 at 6:09 AM #

    In the VOB news deliver at 6.30PM yesterday PM Thompson stated that the government will make the necessary resources available for the management of the BWA to turn the place around and he asked that Barbadians give the BWA a chance. If we misunderstood we apologize but thats what we recall.


  7. Veritas June 18, 2009 at 6:59 AM #

    David, come on! The entire speech was carried by CBC last night. It set out clearly and comprehensively the water strategy for Barbados including the role of the BWA. It was a frank assessment and I give our leader high marks.

    I was impressed by the research, thinking and direction of the policy. It was an even-handed approach that called on the BWA for better service and stakeholders for support.

    Now you can critique it!


  8. David June 18, 2009 at 7:29 AM #

    We have to confess not seeing the CBC report. This blog was posted before 7:30.

    We can apologise as we stated before if we misquoted the PM and his reference to Barbadians giving the BWA a chance.

    Evenso our critique of the BWA stands, it has been allowed to become worse than WASA. The fact that the current government maybe trying to turn this state enterprise around does not absolve it from being part of the cause of the problem which started nearly 2 decades ago


  9. Ready-Done June 18, 2009 at 7:52 AM #

    My water went off twice in my life, their is a burst pipe out side from April.

    Is there no way to measure water lost before the house meter. Them don’t got meters at the pumping station? and at various stations in the distribution network, before they reach the house hold? surely they cant be relying on phone calls to deduce where they are water leaks?

    BUt more should be done to stop the reliance on BWA for water for every household ‘purpose’.

    Water management, land use and alternative fuels need to be urgently looked at in Barbados(as stated be David) by authorities, but as always i (Ready-Done)strongly support the individual household looking into supplying those needs. Because if one household fails it has little or no detriment to the society but if when the ‘authorities’ fail………..catastrophe.


  10. Ready-Done June 18, 2009 at 7:55 AM #

    i got a 115cc engine that works off of water


    when i get enough money to buy a cheap car i going to buy it and CONVERT it too RUN ON WATER

    YES WATER. not fossil fuels WATER


  11. WHAT???! June 18, 2009 at 8:49 AM #

    Well, I really have to admire David of BU because he is not above apologising or admitting when he is wrong – what a breath of fresh air, and so different to that lot on BFP, who NEVER apologise, or even admit when they have been exposed for false statements.

    Also, one can’t help noticing that BU “moves” much faster than BFP – i.e. BU seems to have more hits in a shorter space of time than BFP. BFP keeps away from the immigration issue as much as possible, and we all know why – BFP is run by a non-Barbadian.


  12. mash up & buy back June 18, 2009 at 8:51 AM #


    You are not wrong.

    In todays Advocate page 3,the P.M. is noted as saying to the workers, that if he is to give the BWA financial assistance and save their jobs then they will have to cut him some slack and reduce overtime etc.

    He also ‘urged the public to ease off the BWA and offer the entity some support’.

    I think the P.M. should have been stronger in his condemantion of both management and the workers for their disregard for the wastage of public funds.


  13. Willie June 18, 2009 at 10:18 AM #

    In today’s Nation report, among the litany of difficulties faced by BWA includes “non-payment of rates that left the BWA with $26 million in arrears.” It is all well and good to call for better service from BWA, but will an increase in water rates not make it less likely that payment would be forthcoming prior to an improvement in service?


  14. David June 18, 2009 at 11:02 AM #

    Thank mash up we were very sure of what we heard, its good to know we did not misquote the PM.

    Our fear is that we maybe pouring new wine into old wine skins (is that the saying?)


  15. John June 18, 2009 at 11:11 AM #

    A former Senior Medical Officer of Health from the 50’s and 60’s, once told me that contrary to what many people think about the effect of the improving medical services in the 50’s and the QEH in the 60’s had on reducing the infant mortality, it was improvements in water distribution and chlorination which determined the outcome.

    I am all for the householder making provisions to tap into rainfall and become self sufficient but in the absence of serious control and enforced codes I fear such a practice could have an adverse effect on public health.

    For example, the requirement for a while now is for new houses over a certain size to have storage tanks built into their structure but everything I hear points to many of these tanks not being used and harboring mosquitoes.

    There are other islands in the Caribbean where water storage by individual householders is standard but I think some serious education of Bajan householders would need to be undertaken to avoid public health issues.

    Sometimes I wonder if the yearly spikes in dengue fever may not be related to an extremely sound initiative to force storage tanks into new houses being implemented and managed unsoundly.


  16. iWatchya June 18, 2009 at 11:39 AM #


    Water tank structures and systems should be certified by the Town & Country Department. It could come under the portfolio of Environment & Health.

    The same tanks could be inspected be the health inspectors when they are touring a neighborhood.


  17. Sargeant June 18, 2009 at 12:03 PM #

    One shudders to think if the BWA were privatized where would the water rate settle.
    Perhaps privatization is the key. Think people could get away with not paying BL&P or LIME their monthly bill? Everyone knows that there are issues but no one seems to know how to fix them, now the PM has said that there will be a rate increase from July but he hasn’t given the size of the increase. Today is June 18th and he hasn’t informed the public about the scope of the increase? He is Minister of Finance surely he knows or should know what increase is necessary and what that increase is likely to achieve. Will the public know when it shows up on their bills? The PM standing and making statements and then throwing money at the problem doesn’t make it go away. Does anyone think that in two years if the issues show no sign of abating that anyone will be fired?

    The people running BWA are essentially civil servants mired in the bureaucratic jungle that is the Civil Service. They pay little attention to productivity, costs or efficiency. Tomorrow he or she could be working at the Ministry of Education or Labour if the right opportunity came along .

    Maybe the time is ripe for the Gov’t to convert the BWA to a Crown Corporation or the Barbadian equivalent. Ultimately the Gov’t will still be responsible but if BWA had an autonomous board with authority to examine the books and make decisions about budgets etc. then we may see some accountability.


  18. Ready-Done June 18, 2009 at 12:08 PM #

    essentially civil servants mired in the bureaucratic jungle that is the Civil Service

    Root of most problems in Barbados.


  19. John June 18, 2009 at 12:17 PM #

    The BWA operation is defined in an act of parliament. There is a board, and audited financials are required.


  20. David June 18, 2009 at 12:42 PM #

    The PM indicated yesterday that he is to receive a recommendation from the technocrats today in time for the weekly cabinet meeting.


  21. Sargeant June 18, 2009 at 12:43 PM #

    Thanks John


  22. John June 18, 2009 at 1:28 PM #

    No problem Sargeant.

    But now you raise it, the board point really needs to be examined more closely.

    Here is what the act calls for in the persons who make up the board:

    “Subject to paragraph 3 the board must consist of not less than 7 nor more than 11 members to be designated directors and appointed by the Minister by instrument in writing from among persons who have recognised standing knowledge and experience in matters relating to engineering, law, trade, finance, administration, labour relations, health and agriculture.”

    It is clear that the importance of the water authority is recognised in law.

    Certainly, any questions we ask of the BWA are not only to its staff but also to its board, …. and ultimately, its minister … and of course our PM!!

    I have my doubts that a privately run enterprise could easily bring to bear the diverse types of expertise required by law in the running of the BWA.

    My bet is even the Government has problems.

    One thing is certain, any fly in the ointment will cause problems.

    …. and it doesn’t matter how big or how small the fly is.

    Water supply is not an easy undertaking.


  23. John June 18, 2009 at 3:49 PM #

    I remember hearing of one debtor a while back, late 1980’s ….. a large hotel, ……, Government owned …… just wouldn’t pay its water bill.

    It would be interesting to see how the $26 million in arrears is made up.


  24. Veritas June 18, 2009 at 4:38 PM #

    David & Mash Up and Buy Back,

    I suppose it is emphasis. But I heard and saw the entire speech by the PM which was about 1 1/2 hours long. It was exhaustive and clear and on no less than four occasions he scolded the BWA, the Union and the Management for their practices.

    He explained fully the isues. I will ask GIS for a copy and send it to you.


  25. Veritas June 18, 2009 at 4:50 PM #

    David, here is the PM’s speech as given to the media:

    Chairman, Management and staff of the BWA, Ladies and Gentlemen:

    I am grateful for this opportunity to dialogue and to share with you my thoughts on the important role the BWA is expected to play within the design of Government policy. I believe this is only the second time in recent memory that you are receiving a visit from a Prime Minister- the previous occasion being the visit of then Prime Minister Rt. Ex. Errol Barrow, now National Hero, back in 1986.

    The BWA is never far from the thoughts of the Public, but often, unfortunately, for the wrong reasons. Those of you who listen to the call-in programmes, monitor newspaper letters and columns and general other purveyors of public information would be aware of the harsh criticisms heaped upon this organization by members of the public. These criticisms have become more strident in the wake of my announcement of Government’s intention to grant the BWA an increase in water rates. Some of this criticism is malicious but much of it is well-founded and borne out of bad experiences the public has had with this organization.

    The BWA since November 2008 has been placed by me within the Ministry of Environment, Water Resources and Drainage. The creation of this Ministry has been done deliberately, to emphasize the point that environmental protection is the overarching consideration that will fashion Government’s developmental thrust. The goal is to advance a sustainable development programme that is underpinned by sound environmental technologies and policies that protect our water resources and environment, ultimately with the aim of enhancing the lives of all Barbadians. That sound water resources management is at the heart of this environmental protection thrust cannot be gainsaid, and this reality imposes on the BWA, as the entity responsible for the management of this nation’s water resources, a most central – or perhaps the most important – role.

    Public Concerns

    The BWA is mandated by its Act to provide the public of Barbados with a supply of water for domestic purposes and a potable or otherwise acceptable supply of water for commercial, industrial, agricultural or other purposes as may be prescribed. Generally, the BWA has been successful in getting water to flow through our taps and even when this organization was challenged by the severe drought of 1994 it was still able to provide about 96% of Barbadians with a continuous supply of water. The Public is grateful for this, but the delivery of water through our taps is only part of a wider function vis-a-vis the delivery of a water (and wastewater) service.

    Your response to burst pipes is part of this service and this is a major source of irritation to the public. The BWA unfortunately does not have the comfort of other utilities, in their faults going unnoticed by the public. When the electricity goes off in an area the public can only detect a visible change at night, and if the telephone service is interrupted in an area there is no visible change at all. In the case of water however, a burst pipe or main is clearly visible to the public from inception and they expect a speedy response. Although some burst pipes are acted on speedily, far too many are not, and this annoys the public. The major utilities in Barbados serve essentially the same public, which is therefore in position to compare levels of service. All employees of the Authority must remember that the public will hold this organization to the same high standards as it holds the other utilities. Allied to this is the number of excavations left by the BWA in the aftermath of repairs. I am aware that repairing carriageways is not the forte of the BWA and there is dependence on contractors and the Ministry of Public Works. The existence of the Utilities Coordination Committee notwithstanding, this reinstatement of roads is an area that cries out for urgent resolution and the onus is on the BWA to come up with a solution.

    Another concern is the level of customer service. There are too many reports of instances where members of the public call the Authority to seek information or make reports only to be greeted by less than helpful responses. The public is right to seek information and BWA representatives on the front line must ensure that they are helpful and above all courteous. Customer service is the business of every employee.

    Authority’s Concerns

    I am very well aware that the Authority also has concerns as it seeks to deliver its mandate in a very challenging environment. First of these I am told is a consequence of its public image. The public has a very negative image of the Authority and this has translated into lack of respect for its property and its employees. Instances where customers who have been rightfully disconnected, proceeded to damage the Authority’s property and illegally turn the water back on, have occurred with a frequency not experienced by other utilities. Worse still are situations where persons have at times tapped the mains and received water illegally, sometimes going unnoticed for several years.

    More ominously have been the reports that repair crews conducting their legitimate business have been put at risk by careless road users who ignored the road signs and drove through the work area, passing dangerously close to the crews. The same is true for Meter Readers and Disconnectors who have at times been obstructed in carrying out their duties by members of the public. This irresponsible behavior by a few members of the public must be condemned for, like other utility workers, those of the BWA must be able to carry out their work in a safe environment.

    Next is the attitude of the public to payment of bills. The Authority has been very lenient in disconnecting water services only when they become 60 days and over past the due date for payment. For most households the water bill is the smallest of the utility bills yet it is often not paid. A survey has revealed that residential customers view the BWA as the number 2 utility and they all agree that water is the most valuable of the utility services.

    However, this has not translated into willingness to pay, since residential customers account for about 60% of the $26M arrears owed to the Authority. Some delinquents claim that their reason for not paying is that the other utilities are more aggressive in terminating for non payment or that there is no reward for early payment at the BWA. Whatever the true reason, the number of services due for disconnection is about 10,000 per month and this represents a huge disconnection challenge, given the fact that we must go on site to disconnect. The public has not responded positively to past PR campaigns by the Authority aimed at establishing the value of water in the minds of customers nor have crash disconnection efforts borne sustained fruit.

    The tenor of industrial relations is another area of concern. The relationship with the unions has been too confrontational leading to periodic work stoppages which do nothing to enhance the level of service delivery and reduces the amount of empathy the public has for the organization. In a large utility like the BWA numerous issues are likely to arise from time to time and given the nature of utility business some of these issues might defy resolution for a long time especially in times of financial difficulty. Take the case of the Group Medical Plan for employees. This is very desirable and has been discussed for some years.

    The Board has no objection to it but this represents a cost which the Authority is in no position to bear although workers will also contribute.

    Challenges Faced by the Authority


    The financial challenge facing the Authority is the most serious one and has its origins in a widening gap between expenses which keep rising and revenues which remain relatively fixed. The very rigid expense structure at this organization places limits on options for correction as four (4) items viz. wages and salaries, electricity, purchases of desalinated water, and debt service represent about 80% of expenses with wages and salaries the largest item of expense. With its creation in 1980, the Authority inherited a workforce that was large especially in the semi-skilled and unskilled areas. The 780 employees currently employed by the BWA represent 8.2 employees per 1,000 services which are high by industry standards and speak to the historic tendency to use this organization as a source of employment. Increasing the numbers only aggravates the situation and in the current climate Management must do its utmost to bring the best out of the current workforce. The other cost items do not lend themselves to easy reduction.

    The BWA is the largest consumer of electricity in using about 3.6 million units of electricity each month which represents about 4% of the entire output of Messrs BL&P. As the BWA must pump the water to its customers, heavy consumption of electricity is inescapable. The BWA has accumulated $150M in debt which must be serviced and constitutes an inescapable cost while the purchases of desalinated water are a contractual obligation.


    The technical challenge is actually an amalgam of a number of challenges that manifest themselves as water scarcity, aging infrastructure, threats to our water quality, and effects of climate change. With its population of over 260,000 – and growing by the day – and total water resources availability in an average rainfall year of 225,410 cubic metres per day, the per capita water availability in Barbados is less than 390 cubic metres per person per year. This places Barbados squarely within that group of countries whose per capita water availability is less than 1,000 cubic metres per person per year – this group is labeled “water scarce”. Studies as recent as 1997 have concluded inter alia that our ground water resources are fully exploited which means that we must now resort to non-conventional resources. Steps are already taken in that direction with the establishment of the desalination plant at Spring Garden and one would expect additional plants in coming years if water availability is not to limit national development. The Authority has been undercapitalized for many years with the result that it has not had the finances to refurbish its assets which are now in poor shape and need of renewal. The fact that it has nevertheless been able to maintain water quality that meets WHO Guidelines must be commended. Nowhere is the need for refurbishment more, than in the distribution network whose integrity is questionable with increasing incidences of discoloured water and frequent bursts. Some of this infrastructure is over 100 years old and the level of unaccounted for water has been estimated at 28% and 62% respectively. Systematic replacement of old mains must be pursued as a priority activity and, to this end, resources will be provided for major mains replacement. The increased use of land for vegetable farming and the resultant increase in the use of fertilizer and pesticides, coupled with illegal squatting in some areas of Zone 1 have combined to pose serious threats to the quality of our groundwater.

    Added to this, improved economic circumstances and living standards have led to the use of various household chemicals and cleaners and the dumping of unwanted household items in numerous places. The upshot of all of this is that the existing Zoning Regulations are now inadequate and need to be strengthened. For this reason Government has commissioned a study to review the existing Zoning Policy with one output being the draft of a Groundwater Protection Act. This study should be completed by the end of June 2009.

    Conventional water resources availability is governed by the hydrologic cycle in which rainwater falls from the clouds, sinks into the ground to become groundwater, or runs off on the ground and finally flows to the sea. While the experts argue whether climate change is man-made or part of a natural cycle, there is some agreement that, as a result of global warming, in future we will experience more extreme events be they droughts, intense rainstorms or hurricanes. Some sea-level rise will also result from the global warming. The result of sea-level rise will be to contaminate some of our coastal aquifers through the ingress of seawater and this could reduce the amount of water that can be abstracted from them.

    Barbados presently relies on coastal aquifers for almost 90% of its water supply. Sustainable adaptation strategies will have to be devised based on careful monitoring and measurement of water resource availability. In this regard the Authority is collaborating with local, regional as well as international agencies to ensure a better understanding and development of adaptation measures.


    The BWA which evolved out of the Waterworks Department inherited an operation that was largely manual and where records were kept on paper-based systems. A lot of this data was subject to data gaps, inaccuracies, or in a few instances non-collection. The Authority commenced the computerization of its operations in 1994 with the installation of a billing system and since then much has been done. However many of the systems still rely on manual intervention and paper records which can be soiled or damaged in the work environment. Modern utility practice has seen the increasing use of technology to achieve efficiencies and this will continue as the leading utility sector viz. the electrical industry turns more and more to the emerging “Smart Grid”.

    A number of technologies which began in the electrical utility sector have steadily migrated into the water and wastewater sector as this sector gained in complexity. Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) has proven to be a very effective tool for managing increasingly complex utility systems with the adjunct benefit of improving customer service. The use of such technologies must become integral to the operations of the BWA to afford it early detection of system faults and the ability to be proactive, at times even informing customers of supply difficulties before they are aware. Allied to this is Geographic Information Systems (GIS) with the capacity to store myriads of information which represent the kind of data needed in areas such as hydraulic network modeling. The new technologies are not limited to the engineering function: there are several Customer Information System (CIS) packages available which can be integrated with the above systems to enhance the overall level of customer service. If the Authority is ever to be able to keep in step with current trends then it would need to modernize its existing CIS.

    The small IT Department which currently exists at the Authority will have to be expanded as this unit will be expected to be involved in all implementations of any new technologies.


    The BWA is a large and complex organization but it is very narrow towards the top. Its managerial staff only number about 12 and when we compare with other utilities serving a similar customer base, we find managerial staff numbers in the region of 20 to 43. Because of large numbers of staff the “Staff per Manager” ratio at the BWA is about 65 while for other utilities of similar customer base it is in the range 16 to 24. The result of all of this is that BWA managers constantly find themselves in the “fire-fighting” mode with little time for the orderly planning of departmental functions. There will be the urgent need to correct this situation through the strengthening of existing departments and the adding of new units where necessary. One such unit could be a Regulatory Unit which would focus on facilitating the work of preparing the Authority to submit its first rate application. The provision of water supply and wastewater services is a 24-hour operation yet the BWA is constrained to provide these services, for the most part, in an 8-hour mode, paying costly overtime for work done outside of this normal period. Even though the pumping, treatment, and security functions have traditionally been done on a 24-hour basis, repairing faults e.g. burst pipes, mains, occurring at night cannot be properly attended as there is no standby crew. However, as customers expect to avail themselves of these services at their leisure and many of the activities of the Authority are not geared for continuous service, this causes much frustration when problems arise after hours. The introduction of a 24-hour system of operation in more activities of the Authority will greatly enhance its operational efficiency as well as its customer service. The Authority needs the cooperation of the Barbados Workers Union in negotiating the final form of 24-hour operation.

    Human Resources

    The BWA which serves the same customer base as the other utilities in electricity and to a lesser extent telecommunications, has traditionally, been treated as the “Cinderella” of utilities. Perhaps the very origins of the Authority work against it as most persons continue to view it as a Government Department and harbour somewhat negative impressions of the organization and its staff. Some of this negativity is internalized by a number of staff members themselves. The result is that some of the human resources in this sector are bereft of the skills and attitudes needed in a complex and challenging utility environment. Today customers expect utility personnel at all levels to be able to give informed answers to their concerns whether they be about outages, bills, or guidance on how to transact business. This dearth of suitable human resources has adversely affected the level of service to the public and necessitated the use of scarce resources for basic training rather than training specific to the operating environment and placed added pressure on those managing the systems.

    A more conventional recruitment policy is needed where entry requirements are comparable to those of the other utilities and all persons entering the organization do so via a transparent process of application, interview, and selection. This approach is needed if the Authority is to provide the same levels of customer service as the other utilities. Added to this, administering to the human resources needs of the large workforce has become a major challenge as we seek to keep track of training needs, union agreements, vacation schedules, promotional data and other critical paraphernalia using manual systems. It is quite clear that the rapid computerization of the human resources function must be given high priority.


    The BWA currently conducts its business from four (4) administrative locations of which it owns only one. This scattering of offices makes for difficult management of the entity and harms the image of the BWA. A recent survey confirmed a link in the minds of consumers between the Authority’s corporate image and bill payment and the negative perception is reinforced when the public sees the traffic congestion that used to occur periodically at the Pine Headquarters. The Authority has for some time been desirous of building a new office compound and has already bought nine (9) acres of land on which to site it. Raising the remaining financing has been a challenge.

    Why a Rate Increase?

    Except for fiscal 2005/06 when it made a small profit, the BWA has made losses in each of the past thirteen (13) years rendering the entity technically bankrupt today. Successive losses forced the BWA to borrow to sustain its operations and its current finances are inadequate to meet debt service charges. Government has had to assist. In the past the BWA has sought to halt the slide through measures aimed at improving revenues with some success but efforts to contain costs were not successful. As the gap between expenses and revenues widened it became impossible to honour obligations to suppliers on a timely basis and this negatively impacted its operations. The only viable option is to grant a rate increase at this time to permit the conduct of orderly operations while giving some breathing space for modernizing the organization and commencing a number of projects critical to the development of the water and wastewater sector. This modernization is an essential component of the preparation of the BWA for eventual regulation by the FTC.

    Future plans and programmes

    Re-branding the BWA

    What started in 2007 as a marketing exercise aimed at encouraging the public to practice water conservation and pay their water bills had to be expanded into a wider re-branding effort. This was because during the diagnostic phase of the marketing exercise a number of persons surveyed responded that negative perceptions of the Authority was a factor in their not paying bills. The marketing consultants suggested that for too long the BWA’s marketing and communications efforts have been driven by tactical attempts to address concerns that present themselves rather than adopting a strategic approach. They referred to past attempts to enhance collections through disconnection notices in the media, an increase in the number of Disconnection Assistants at the Authority, and the use of Attorneys and a Collection Agent, and noted that none of these efforts bore fruit on a sustained basis. It was time to break new ground. They proposed a strategic marketing plan that will respond to BWA’s long-term objectives and which will see the development of clear mission and vision statements meant to motivate staff, as well as a new logo and corporate colours. The buy-in of staff is critical to the success of this effort and for this reason a number of workshops has been run aimed at staff orientation and brand awareness and to explain the reason for the campaign. The entire re-branding project is costly and could be in the region of $2.5M Implementation is estimated at 2-3 years.

    Modernization of the Organization

    Water availability is at the heart of national development. Given the number of public and private sector projects that are planned, including a significant expansion in housing, balanced development of our water resources is imperative if lack of water is not to stymie our efforts. This water resources management is not made any easier by the effects of climate change which has brought on severe drought or floods from time to time. It is now accepted that the water sector in Barbados must undergo a strategic shift in direction from being a public utility heavily dependent on subsidies from Government to a public enterprise competing in the marketplace for its share of customer spend and capable of vying for the attention of and funding from investors. Government is currently in negotiations with the IDB and the CDB on a package of measures labeled “Water & Sanitation Systems Upgrade” and which include a component for the reorganization and modernization of the BWA. Specific activities under this component include the development of a modern human resources recruitment and development strategy, an operational strategy, change management, development of performance standards or benchmarks, and the review of the role of the BWA as regulator and chief abstractor of water. Also envisaged is the installation of modern management information systems, the use of new technologies such as SCADA for network management and control, and public awareness campaigns.

    To sustain this modernization it will be necessary to train staff specific to the operating environment and to raise entry level requirements for recruitment at the Authority. The BWA must be positioned like the other utilities to be regulated by the Fair Trading Commission when the time comes and this preparation is deemed necessary.

    Belle Treatment Facility

    This project had its origins in an environmental study commissioned by Government in 2002 which identified high nitrates and bacteria as posing serious threats to the quality of water supplied from Belle and Waterford well sources. A number of options for addressing this situation were considered but the option ultimately accepted by Government was treatment of the water from Belle to remove the nitrates, coupled with better disinfection practices there. To achieve this would require the establishment of a treatment plant at Belle to remove the nitrates from part (or all if necessary) of the water abstracted as well as a facility to increase the contact time for the chlorine to kill any bacteria. The estimated cost of these works is $ 55M Barbados dollars. The source of funding is to be determined. We can see the need for treatment of groundwater at other locations increasing if as a nation we do not curb our use of fertilizers and pesticides and cease the illegal dumping of garbage.

    West Coast Project / Wastewater Reuse

    The proposed West Coast Sewerage Project has been in the pipeline for some time with the Master Plan having been completed as far back as 1997. Objections by one Government agency to the proposed disposal of wastewater that was to receive only preliminary treatment resulted in a review of the level of treatment with Government expressing a preference for the effluent to be treated to tertiary level so that it can be reused. It also directed that a cost/benefit analysis be done on project options. The cost/benefit analysis has been completed and a budget level costing of the preferred technical option given as US$300M. The acceptance of wastewater reuse as policy and part of the national water augmentation effort in a country labeled as “water scarce” has forced a redesign of the proposed West Coast Sewerage System. It has also rendered necessary a full evaluation of the existing Bridgetown and South Coast facilities with a view to making them compatible with the emerging wastewater reuse master plan. A wastewater reuse concept report has been prepared by a Consultant and is being examined by the BWA. Planning level cost estimates put the cost of modifications to the Bridgetown and South Coast systems to deliver treated wastewater for reuse at around US$95M. The approval processes which are currently being pursued must be completed before proceeding to the next stage.

    Septage Handling Facility

    The sewage treatment plant at Emmerton Lane was designed to treat 5,000 gallons per day of septage but almost from inception it was forced to handle multiple times that quantity. This heavy nutrient load has contributed significantly to poor plant performance which has at times resulted in offensive odours being emitted. The need for a facility to process the excess septage was recognized by Government which agreed to the construction of a separate facility. At the time of World Cup 2007 a temporary facility was constructed near the plant at Graeme Hall with the intention of upgrading it to a permanent facility. The BWA is awaiting a fee proposal from the consultant for doing the designs. It is believed that the permanent facility could cost around $3.0M Barbados.

    Mains Replacement Programme

    This programme seeks to reduce the level of un-accounted-for water, minimize the incidences of discoloured water, and relocate old mains out of carriageways where they are in the way of Government road-works. Mains replacement also has the adjunct benefit of reducing electricity costs by reducing the level of leakage from the mains. The preparatory work to select the most critical mains has been done with frequency of pipe bursts and presence of discoloured water factored into the selection criteria. This programme which was initially estimated at $50M has now been expanded to $150M over a five (5) year period. A programme of this size cannot be executed using BWA employees alone and private sector involvement will be necessary. It is intended that there will be mains-replacement activity in all eleven parishes and the Authority craves the indulgence of the public in enduring the inconvenience as they go about their business.

    New Headquarters

    The Authority is a tenant even at this Manor Lodge complex which serves as its headquarters. It had for some time been desirous of building a new headquarters at Pine Hill and to this end had engaged the services of an Architect. The hurried abandonment of the administration building in the Pine at the end of March because of environmental problems has served to impress on us all the need for the BWA to have a headquarters of its own. Housing of staff in acceptable accommodation has become top priority as more and more emphasis is placed on matters of safety and health. Work has restarted with the aim of bringing this project to completion and it is hoped that the final move to a BWA headquarters can take place in about two (2) years. In keeping with the tenets of the green economy and the mission of the Ministry of Environment, Water resources and Drainage, the headquarters complex must be a showpiece of water conservation and renewable energy use. The cost of this project is estimated at around $30M.

    Energy Efficiency Study

    The cost of electricity in water operations has been a cause for concern by many water utilities in the Caribbean including the BWA. Accordingly, the IDB has responded to a request by about eight (8) territories including Barbados to finance a consultancy to examine energy consumption in the sector and recommend specific steps to achieve efficient use. The consultant is expected to visit Barbados in July and will meet with senior officers of the BWA.

    The Way Forward

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I have set out the challenges and obstacles confronting the BWA. I have also spelt out, in pellucid terms, the expectations of the public and of the Government of Barbados. What we need here is a win-win situation. I made the point in this address that the argument of over-staffing and the efficacy of pursuing a leaner staff component are sound and would be justifiable under the circumstances. I made the point also that there are some human resource challenges at the BWA and that our approach to recruitment over the years has not been the most effective or efficient. Nonetheless, job protection is a cornerstone of my government’s social as well as economic thrust. I know the use of the word ‘deal’ or the terminology ‘cutting of a deal’ is not Prime Ministerial. But, Ladies and Gentlemen, it best sums up and explains my proposition to you this morning. I am willing as Prime Minister and Minister of Finance to work with you. I will authorize all necessary programmes, geared at positively changing attitudes and enhancing service delivery. I want each and everyone of you to keep your jobs and to be a part of this challenging yet exciting period that lies ahead for the BWA. But you are going to have to make a greater effort. You are going to have to draw that proverbial line in the sand. You are going to have to step up to the plate as far as delivery of quality product and service is concerned. You have asked for additional resources, which translate into higher rates to the consumer, and I have agreed. Water rates will be increased effective July 1st. I expect that in a matter of days, certainly by next Thursday, the technical officials would have made their recommendation and the Cabinet of Ministers deliberated thereon.

    Certainly, by next Thursday evening, Barbadians will know the exact rate of increase of water. But, of whom much is given, much will also be expected. I am going to the public of Barbados in hard, economic times and asking for an increase in water rates. I do so with the understanding that you, the staff of the BWA, will, by your attitude and aptitude, justify that increase. I sense from my interaction with a wide cross section of people in this country, that there is general agreement with the principle of an increase in rates. But, the public also want an improvement in product and service. They want to see a more user-friendly BWA. They want to see a more responsive BWA. They want to see a practical and commonsense BWA. Attainment of this will depend on the collective effort and output of all interest groups, especially you the workers and your bargaining agent, the trade union. If I am to protect your jobs and to deliver much needed financial and other resources, you in turn have got to cut me and the public of Barbados some slack and work with us in improving the overall quality, availability and management of our water and water resources. We need a paradigm shift in how we approach the business of service delivery. I spoke earlier of 24 hour work days and the need for us to cut out this notion, I was tempted to say nonsense, of overtime work at overbearing rates. The workers of the BWA must work with the public of Barbados in the interest of Barbados. By the same token, I take this opportunity to appeal to consumers to ease off the BWA. Support the BWA! Give the workers your fullest cooperation. Over the course of the next three years, there will be a virtual revolution in water recovery, management and distribution in Barbados. The success of these programmes will depend in large measure on the cooperation and support of all Barbadians. This is an initiative we can no longer delay. It is change we must embrace! I do not think I need to dwell on this issue any longer. The challenge is made to you, the management and staff of the BWA, to justify the imminent increase in water rates by improving, expanding and generally enhancing the level and quality of product and service offered by the BWA. The public of Barbados is called upon to play its part in facilitating those improvements. With these slightly more than few words, I call on all stakeholders in the procurement and distribution of waters resources in Barbados to step up to the plate, roll back your shirt sleeves and let us all get down to the task of securing for Barbados a high quality and reliable water and water management service.

    I thank you!


  26. David June 18, 2009 at 6:17 PM #

    Thanks Veritas!

    Lets hope his government can turn the BWA around.


  27. Sargeant June 18, 2009 at 8:39 PM #

    From my reading of the document the Board is not autonomous; much of the authority still rests with the Minister so of course political niceties have to be maintained. That’s why I don’t pay much attention to the story in the Advocate about 10,000 delinquent ratepayers. The Ministers (read Gov’t) don’t want to disconnect the services of the delinquents because they fear the chatter from their opponents about the Gov’t not caring about “the small man” this too was a failing of the BLP.


  28. Wright B.Astard June 18, 2009 at 10:17 PM #

    I’ve always bee sceptical about the BWA water bowsers. First of all they should be made of stainless steel since they are delivering potable water,and have removable access hatches to facilitate the cleaning of the interior.Potable water tanks should not be made of common mild steel which is susceptible to rust.I’ve seen one of the BWA water tankers, which started its life as a tray on a dump truck for transporting sand and marl, modified with an upper cover section. I shudder to think what may be inside of some of those tanks and the attached hoses and pipes.
    And equally is bad, is seeing one of the tankers attendants having a leak under the truck.


  29. Wright B.Astard June 18, 2009 at 10:20 PM #

    BWA started to go downhill after the retirement of Nicky Sealy.


  30. RIDER on a WALK June 18, 2009 at 11:31 PM #

    There will always be problems with entities such as the BWA. The BWA is owed millions because if Mr. Big Business owes money, he makes a call to ‘his friend’ and the water is not cut off. When this happens the employees get disillusioned and retract from doing their jobs.

    When this situation is repeated over and over again -the monies owed mounts up and hence the present situation.

    Until there is a level playing field when laws and rules apply to all regardless, these problems will remain.

    Tell me ah wrong !-if yuh dare !


  31. John June 19, 2009 at 9:17 AM #

    The board is appointed by the minister, not us as “shareholders” as would be the case in a limited liability company.

    The minister thus holds a position of trust for us.

    If the board does not function the minister is responsible.

    If the minister does not act, then we are responsible.

    The board’s lack of autonomy is traceable to the minister and ultimately to us.

    We have power to change the minister, …. in fact the whole government.

    It is just that we don’t communicate to the various ministers exactly what it is we expect of them and tolerate foolishness.

    We get what we vote for!!


  32. John June 19, 2009 at 9:36 AM #

    Forgot one layer of accountability.

    If the minister does not act the Prime Minister is responsible.

    Then is when we get involved with the same conclusion.


  33. Can't understand June 19, 2009 at 10:10 AM #

    All very interesting. But I would like to see some of the cost cutting methods implicated before we throw more money at the BWA. Firstly start with HR and the salary bill if it is the highest. It is unfair for the public to be asked to pay more money and told at the same time that the staffing at the BWA is too heavy and that people are there not working!

    I’d like the Government to start tidying up the BWA then come back and tell the public what they done. Then tell us about the shortfalls, then ask for an increase.

    When this Government made it’s election bid there top 3 items were cost of living, cost of living, cost of living. Little did the Bajan public know that it really meant everything going up, up and up!

    Aside from the businesses that are heavily reliant on water, who will no doubt increase their prices. The householder who’s already writing bounced cheques has to find more money. Rents for homes will increase etc…. Everything will go up! The timing is wrong. Many of us from the outside may look like we’re doing ok…..but underneath if you could see the finances a lot of the buffer money has gone. Savings are being tapped into and we are barely hanging on.

    The government really need to revisit how they are spending money. The building of new offices for BWA can wait awhile and the money used say towards the replacement of the old pipes or something that will bring expenses down.

    I ask the Government to do what they said they would in their election campaign and start putting the people first!


  34. David June 19, 2009 at 10:35 AM #

    Fixing the problem at the BWA can’t be done piece meal, WATER is that important. You talk about staff cutting? Note that the BWA is heavily unionized and the field staff of the BWA after the Port Authority and LIME staff possibly represent the power of that union to leverage industrial action. Another headache when any attempt is made to restructure.


  35. Thewhiterabbit June 19, 2009 at 10:38 AM #

    1. I had a water meter installed. It took six men 30 minutes. Each man worked for five minutes each (craft specialization taken to an absurd level), the rest of the time they idled. What was the real cost of the installation? It could have been done in 15 minutes by one man. Now count the cost of all those men traveling from the depot to the work site, and then the return to the depot. Pay for six men when one would have done.
    2. As long as the BWA plays its part in the social welfare handout system in Barbados, providing jobs for otherwise incompetent people whose only qualification is a recommendation from their local MP, the costs will be high, the service quality low.
    3. The above blogs have come down hard on the notion of a private water company. Despite a few recent big outages, BL&P has been very efficient, very effective, and very reliable for many decades. Perhaps there is a larger message here for the ruling socialists.
    4. Leakage has been estimated between 45% and 60%, depending on the method and consultant used, but still well above the world-wide average of 30%. If the income from sales went into system preventive maintenance (many Barbadians will need to refer to the dictionary to understand the term preventive maintenance) instead of into the social welfare handout system, the leaks could probably be repaired from the cash box and not from government borrowing with its attendant debt servicing fees.
    5. $30 million for a headquarters building???? When the pipes are leaking??? You must be kidding!!!!
    6. With only 5 cents worth of rational thinking (as opposed to socialist thinking) we would not need a rate increase, but could get a rate reduction AND better service and better water.


  36. J June 19, 2009 at 4:56 PM #

    Leaks are very, very expensive. Earlier this year one of my pipes was leaking into the ground in the garden behind some bushes. By the time I noticed it and had it fixed about 30 days later the bill was over $2300. I’ve made arrangements to pay it in installments. No. I did not call my MP, school buddy, or lodge buddy, to ask for a favour

    However I shudder to think what the BWA’s leaks cost them, that is what they cost us the taxpayer, if one fairly small domestic leak cost me about $75 per day. But $60 million or more dollars per year may be a low estimate.


  37. John June 19, 2009 at 5:25 PM #


    It happens to best of us, and not only here, … and for different reasons.


  38. John June 19, 2009 at 5:27 PM #

    …. check your meter


  39. Enuff June 20, 2009 at 1:20 AM #

    @ Veritas

    Now tell us which parts of the speech were cut and paste from the previous Administration.
    Wuh losssssssss


  40. David June 20, 2009 at 4:17 AM #


    Are you admitting that the former government had a plan to restructure the BWA but never got around to it in the 14 years it had the government?

    Why don’t we stop playing politics with this matter, don’t you see the result of it with the BWA falling apart?


  41. John June 20, 2009 at 9:13 AM #


    That’s the big problem.

    Lack of strategic thinking at the top.

    I can find a report (Senn) from 1946 that shows the limit of the ground water resources and one in 1978 (Water Resources Study) that projects we would arrive at full exploitation in 1995.

    It is worrying to read the below statement in the speech.

    “Studies as recent as 1997 have concluded inter alia that our ground water resources are fully exploited which means that we must now resort to non-conventional resources.”

    What has happened is we have coasted on the strategic thinking of previous generations without implementing our own plan for the future using the sound foundation that was laid for us.

    … and yes I agree that there are problems right through the BWA which we could talk to at length but as is often repeated ….. “where there is no vision the people perish”.


  42. David June 20, 2009 at 10:24 AM #


    Your assessment of the situation we agree 100%. The people/electorate are to blame for the deterrioration of the BWA over the years i.e.lack of strategic planning supported by the necessary implementation. Now the people/electorate will have to pay for their lack of vigilance. A read of the NAtion editorial today sums it all perfectly, the BWA deserves a rate hike!


  43. Ready-Done June 20, 2009 at 10:45 AM #

    BWA deserves a hike rate? or those in management deserve a taking a hike?

    Charging more money is not the only thing that needs to be done!!! They need to charge those that use the most water, collect the monies owed to them and stop sending 6 men to do a 1 man job.


  44. John June 20, 2009 at 1:53 PM #

    Ready Done

    I agree.

    The meter installation programme and rate hike of the late 1990’s is probably responsible for the dampening of a rising demand for water the production of which had plateaued in 1995/6.

    In my travels I have come across a household comprised only of a couple and a live in maid whic during the dry season consumed in excess of 15,000 gallons per day. That is excessive.

    Most of this demand was for irrigation.

    I am for any rate hike which does not affect a household consuming perhaps 400 gallons per day but would penalise the households with excessive demands.

    Water is precious but is not valued correctly.

    A tanker despatched to an area with a burst pipe or low water pressure carries $5.00-10.00 worth of water.

    That insignificant monetary sum gives relief far in excess of its value.

    It is far worse for a household to be out of water for a week than out of electricity or telephone.

    Water needs to be valued properly and one way is a tiered rate structure, low at the bottom, high at the top.


  45. Bush Tea June 20, 2009 at 4:00 PM #

    The root problem is not really one of ‘lack of strategic planning at the top’, I would suggest that rather, it is a problem of our society not being prepared to establish high standards and insisting on appropriate performance.

    This is the norm across this country. Truth is, the management of BWA should have been shaken up YEARS ago….. as should have been the management of CBC, Transport Board, NHC, RDC, BADMC etc etc.

    Instead, we have allowed mediocrity to take root, and we suffer in silence while paying more and more, for less and less.

    …..of course, since most of us are equally mediocre in our own jobs and lives, it is difficult for us to call on others to step up to the plate….

    (LOL – Ready Done can well talk, since he is obviously someone who gets up and gets things done, but this is a real exception bout here.)

    Honestly!! Bush Tea expects no serious improvement with BWA. They will be given more money yes – but this will be promptly squandered even as we see our water network (and quality) continue to degrade.

    I am reminded of the recent prison fiasco, which has cost this country hundreds of millions of dollars (just to improve the living conditions of those among us who contribute most negatively to society)- and was then promptly handed right back to the same people who fowled up the system in the first place……. real smart!!!

    What a way to reward incompetence!!
    (…and the expensive report continues to be a secret….)

    With this approach, many more will also fail….


  46. Ready-Done June 20, 2009 at 4:38 PM #

    @ Bush Tea tanks for the compliment, being self employed, my life style quality is directly proportional to my work output. So i get accustom to working.

    In my opinion the problem it not only BWA as stated by john but with the way the country views government, government should subcontract more work to self employed persons in the relevant fields, and pay by the job, that way you would get more ‘bang for ya buck’

    If i was PM doe i would take that money and open a secretary school. As the first person you deal with, they really should have SOME sort of knowledge as to where or who to direct you to in the department. I my dealings with government secretaries i have come to expect to be transferred or put on hold before i could ask my question to someone that will transfer me to someone else.

    This is very annoying!!!!!!!!!
    & the rule rather than the exception.


  47. J June 20, 2009 at 9:39 PM #

    Dear John:

    I’ve learned my lesson and now I check my meter regularly.

    But the BWA bill even though huge and was correct and I will pay.


  48. Straight talk June 20, 2009 at 10:00 PM #


    As a keen follower of your comments, I note your persistent referral to the Glendairy fire.

    Just would like you to know that you are not on your own,

    There is no smoke without ….


  49. Yogi June 21, 2009 at 4:22 PM #

    I have blog on the BWA else where in the press. I shall give my five cents worth. I sahll start by saying that Barbadian barely pay any thing for water. what we pay for water rates are a joke. Water is one of those things which no society can survive with out. We can do with out electricity, telephones and cable TV. We pay these other utilities with out making a fuss. Most of the time people pay these utilities on time, most of the time, because their are privately owned. If thses bills are not paid on time the services will be disconnected with a reconnection fee. A lot of Bajans refuse to pay their water bill, and when they do pay it, it’s paid late. Even if Bajans were paying their bills on time the current RATES would not be enough to take care of BWA expenditure. Therefore they must be an increase in water rates. The increase should be one that will cover BWA operatiing cost. WE as a people need to rid ourselves of this mendicant mentality. The same way we pay for other UTILITIES we need to pay for water.

    One of the things that Government need to do is clean up the management at BWA. BWA is in the current sitution now because of the management. No sense is continuing to allow to same people to run it, we will be face with the same problems don’t care how much money is pumped into it. The management Structure need to be shaken up. The attitude of the workers leave a lot to be desired. Both the ones working out doors and the ones in the office. These people needed to be trained or retrained. They need to understand they are there to provide SERVICE to the PUBLIC.

    The management of BWA need to collect the MILLIONS that are owing to them. It should not be that difficult to collect the moeny. Send out FINAL NOTICES to those people who owe them money. If those people don’t pay in 14 days disconnect their service. It should not be reconnected unless the full amount is paid. We need to be very serious with those delinquents. They should also have to pay for reconnection. Please don’t tell me anything about poor people. The WELFARE DEPT. is mandated to help those persons who are indigent. The so call poor people have bigger TV’S and FRIDGES than some rich people. Water rates are long overdue let us stop complaining. What we as a people should do is DEMAND a much better level of SERVICE from the BWA in the future.


  50. John June 21, 2009 at 6:07 PM #

    Bush Tea // June 20, 2009 at 4:00 pm

    The root problem is not really one of ‘lack of strategic planning at the top’, I would suggest that rather, it is a problem of our society not being prepared to establish high standards and insisting on appropriate performance.

    This is the norm across this country. Truth is, the management of BWA should have been shaken up YEARS ago….. as should have been the management of CBC, Transport Board, NHC, RDC, BADMC etc etc.

    All true, there are several “root” problems.

    Think for a moment about the last 20 years of “development” which depends so much on our water resource.

    Link what you see to the fact that there is a finite limit to the water resource which was reached about 20 years ago!!

    Then try to resolve in your mind how the competition for the limited/capped resource between BWA and the “development” will be/has been resolved.

    Remember, one man gets to sign off on “development” permissions and the resolution of the competition is in his hands!!!

    What do you think he will do ….. or rather did?

    … and that is why I have alot of respect for the folks at the BWA because somehow they have been able to get around this limit for the past 20 years.

    It is a fact that we still get water …… although not all of us do 24/7!!

    I suspect this is how BWA may get around the limit/cap but I do not know,

    …. but one thing is certain, the more the man at the top signs, the bigger the problem the BWA will have to add to its myriad others.


  51. Bush Tea June 21, 2009 at 8:46 PM #

    I get your point too John.

    What do you see to be the best possible solution now?

    Maybe we should price water at a rate that emphasizes its true value in Barbados of 2009.

    …say the first 1000 gal / month free, $50 per 1000 gallons for the next 2000 gallons and $100 per 1000 gallons for any amount above 3000 gals / month.

    (just numbers from out of the air)

    …the alternative will be shortages and decreasing quality….


  52. General Lee June 21, 2009 at 10:50 PM #

    What is the BWA doing to reduce its expenses and effectively collect revenue due?

    While I agree that most people do not appreciate the value of water and takes the BWA service for granted,
    an increase in water rates will add to the cost of living, more people will drive to the few remaining standpipes to wash their cars on weekends and more people will ignore the bill for as long as possible.

    Either BWA functions completely as a business entity or as a social agency. It can no longer do both effectively.
    This uncertainty, regarding its primary role, influences the thinking and ultimately the actions of its customers and employees.

    Who will bell the cat?


  53. John June 21, 2009 at 11:18 PM #

    Bush Tea

    Rates are one way.

    Another is rather than give concessions to “developments” just because they are “developments”, there should be a catch.

    That catch should be that the “concessions” are dependent on the developer making provision to supply the equivalent volume of water to the national grid.

    It may be that true desalination is funded by the “developers” who want to “develop” our land.


  54. David June 21, 2009 at 11:41 PM #

    @General Lee

    You may be onto the crux of the issue.

    Imagine both parties when in government know the importance of water for survival would talk about a national strategic plan which propels the country into the 21 century but yet would allow the BWA to operate like a Wells Fargo outpost seen in your favourite Western movie.

    Conversely in steps the business savvy Bizzy Williams who sees an opportunity to live off the fatted calf by persuading government to enter a private public sector partnership and Ionics was born. Now because of government’s ineptitude the taxpayers not only have to rescue the BWA but we have to pay the private sector (Ionics) to provide water. We allow housing developments as John is alluding to be built hither dither and yon without any idea how the BWA will satisfy water needs. The development in St. Davids is an example where the BWA reservoirs will have to satisfy the added demand. The development at Pickering will be partially satisfied but over 1 million cubic meters of water will have to be found in the aquifer.

    The governments plan is noble but …


  55. ROK June 24, 2009 at 9:16 PM #


    Just to make a clarification; but remember that I can only tell you what was in the grapevine. Since 2005-2006 the previous blp government started looking at water. Actually as intervenors, we were anxiously awaiting the move to change the legislation.

    Since this government has been elected, the story in the grapevine has not change, but what is more apparent is that this Government is doing something. While the PM has stated that he will fix the water rates, he has not made it abundantly clear that the legislation will not be changed down the road. This option still seems open; although not necessarily welcomed.


  56. David June 30, 2009 at 2:47 AM #

    Minister Haynesly Benn who is acting for Dennis Lowe more than hinted yesterday that the domestic water rates will be increased by about 50%.


  57. ROK June 30, 2009 at 3:20 AM #

    @ David

    That would be a tragedy. Taking an overall look at the BWA, it would seem that the only thing required is maximising its efficiency.

    One of the problems that we face is utilising the resources we have. Technology has not been properly applied.


  58. David June 30, 2009 at 6:43 AM #


    A valid position remains unanswered, increased revenues because of increased rates but same inept management? The public/taxpayers need to know what is the plan, shakeup? We ask because there was a news report that the government has been waiting on the BWU.


  59. General Lee June 30, 2009 at 7:33 AM #

    Nationnews reports that the increase will be 60%.

    Mr. Benn admits that there is wastage by the BWA, but hopes the increase will force consumers to conserve more.

    He is reported to have also said that some people take home thousands of dollars in overtime pay weekly.

    I guess the best option then, under those circumstances, was to increase the rates.

    Gas, water, light, road tax, wage freeze … the battle against the cost of living continues, with consumers and taxpayers on the front line of course.


  60. ROK June 30, 2009 at 7:19 PM #

    We will need to send a submission to the Minister and request transparency. Of great concern is the report about the amount of overtime. Indeed the management should be called to account for this; heads should roll.

    Every job should have a report outlining the scope of the job and accounting for time. Reason for delays and proper management of deployment of human and other resources is also critical information for achieving afficiency.

    At this time, whether or not the BWA falls under the FTC is not so relevant, in either case a battle would have to be fought in order to keep the rates down. The strategy here would be to engage Government and of course the public would be the ultimate judge.

    It is going to be a burden to deal with two utilities at the same time considering that we are short of manpower. Any Volunteers for research? We can do it right here; we can build a case right here.


  61. Wright B. Astard June 30, 2009 at 10:31 PM #

    When we compare the monthly rate of water against subscriptions to MCTV or Direct TV, or Sunbeach or Lime etc etc. What are we complaining about?
    Perhaps if we had channeled some of the Edutech millions toward renewing our aged water mains,which successive governments have neglected, we would be a lot better off today.


  62. Gully Boar June 30, 2009 at 11:09 PM #

    Or better yet the $19m that was given back to the BTC.



  1. The Utilities Raping Barbadian Consumers « Barbados Underground - January 30, 2010

    […] by the argument the BWA was insolvent and in dire need of a overhaul. Prime Minister David Thompson told Barbadians in June 2009 that the increase in the water rate was necessary to ensure the BWA meets […]


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