The Daily herald reports that the Dutch government has drafted a law to regulate the supply of electricity and drinking water on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba, writes The Daily Herald. It is the purpose of the law to provide a reliable, affordable, sustainable and high-quality service, as this is deemed of high importance to public health, welfare and prosperity.
Recently, some concerns were raised, especially on Statia, concerning the question whether the use of cisterns and water catchments would still be allowed under the new law. The introduction of a new electricity and water law does not entail that the legal framework of the European Netherlands is directly applicable to the Caribbean Netherlands, it is stated in the explanatory memorandum of the draft law electricity and water. “The insular character, the small surfaces, the small population size and the sloping landscape influence how companies and markets are able to function,” it was stated.
Saba and Statia are both in the process of establishing their own electricity and water companies, which will become operational as per January 1, 2014. Statia is working on the establishment of a drinking water network, which will connect homes and businesses on the island that were previously dependent on cisterns to collect rainwater or the provision of drinking water by water trucks. Consumers on Saba will remain dependent on cisterns and water trucks as the island is considered too steep to allow for the construction of a water distribution network.
Article 4.3 of the draft law states that those individuals who do not consume drinking water from a drinking water network may establish, manage and utilise a facility for collection of water for own consumption, intended for drinking, cooking and the preparation of food. Specifically on Saba, but also in some parts of Statia and Bonaire, households collect rainwater in a cistern below their homes. “This is an important part of the water supply in areas where a drinking-water network is not in place,” it is stated in the explanatory notes. Requirements will be imposed on the facility and the actual drinking water. This involves the installation of a filter and proper covering of the water tank to prevent the presence of micro-organisms and harmful substances in the drinking water. The facility is explicitly intended for personal use and may not be operated for commercial purposes. In certain cases, it will be necessary to impose custom requirements with regard to the cistern. This may be the case, for instance, if modification of a cistern is not possible due to the location or local circumstances.
Department Manager and Acting Director Water and Soil at the Ministry of Infrastructure and Environment Marjan van Giezen confirmed that the use of cisterns will not be prohibited under the new law. “It will be allowed to use the cisterns, also when there is a water distribution network available. Neither will there be any additional conditions for the use of cistern water,” Van Giezen told Statianews. The Caribbean Netherlands largely depends on desalinated sea water for the production of drinking water. This involves the use of large quantities of electricity, which makes it a costly method. The price for drinking water on the islands is, therefore, many times higher than in the European Netherlands. Statia has a desalination plant. Water produced in this plant is pumped in the water distribution network, which came into operation mid-2013. Saba counts two private desalination plants that produce drinking water from sea water. The water from these facilities is distributed to costumers by water trucks. “Rainwater which is collected in cisterns is not intended for distribution to third parties and collection is not subject to a permit. The distribution of water in bottles is not included in the scope of this Act and the production of such water is therefore not subject to a permit either,” it is stated in the explanatory notes to the draft-law.