Initiated by the SLP fraction, MP Van Raak (SP) submitted questions to Minister Plasterk regarding the water shortage on Saba.
The questions and answers are as follows:
Questions of MP Van Raak (SP) to the Minister of the Interior and Kingdom Relations about the water shortage on Saba. (submitted July 29, 2015)
1) Is it true that the people of Saba will have to deal with a shortage of water and rely on water tanks this summer again ?
The people of Saba are using rainwater for their water supply, which is collected in so-called ‘cisterns’ under their homes. This is a common an relatively inexpensive supply of drinking water for the population of Saba. In addition, it is possible to obtain water via private companies. In case of drought, which now indeed exist, this is used more often.
2) Is it true that the supply of 1000 liters of water cost between 105 and 110 dollars (and sometimes more) ?
Besides the collected rainwater, Saba basically has no natural fresh water. There are two private companies that have an osmosis plant which produces drinking water from seawater.
This water is then distributed by truck among those who have ordered the water. This process is relatively expensive. The price of water charged by the producers (including transport) is between 105 and 120 dollars per 1000 gallons. This is about 3800 liters of water. Otherwise bottled drinking water is sold by supermarkets.
3) Do you understand that many citizens on Saba can not afford this and that many companies will get into financial difficulties ?
A good and inexpensive water supply on Saba is crucial for the population and businesses. Water is a necessity of life and it is essential, particularly in areas that have longer periods of drought. Therefore the water supply has the explicit attention of the local administration and the (Dutch) cabinet. The (Dutch) cabinet is working with the Executive Council of Saba since 2012 to create both temporary measures and more structural solutions to the problem of water in times of drought. The expectation is that the costs to citizens and businesses, which are high when the free water is running out, can be reduced herewith.
Furthermore, the Executive Council of Saba recently announced to provide an emergency grant to cheapen the water for the residents with 20 dollars per 1000 gallons of water. Finally there are opportunities within the framework of special relief (on an income below 834 dollars per month) from the Ministry of Social Affairs and Employment, to get cisterns filled
4) Is it true that that the Organoponics Garden, which is important for employment and for a good food supply, gets into trouble because of the the high water prices ?
Organoponics Garden is one of the companies depending on the water transports in this dry season. Because of the drought more water has to be bought. At the moment that the drought continues for longer, the costs for the company will, of course, increase. I have no signals that the Organoponics Garden would be endangered due to high water prices.
It should be noted that dry periods occur each year on Saba and that companies should be considered able to anticipate on this.
5) Can you exclude the endangerment by the shortage of water for the Saban economy so important tourism?
The impact of the reduced availability of water from the reservoirs on tourism, is considered low by the (Dutch) cabinet. In the supermarkets on Saba the drinking water is available in sufficient quantities and from the hospitality industry are no signs that they can not provide the tourists with water. Also, in times of drought, each hotel does implement a water conservation policy.
6) Are you willing to let the Dutch Navy in the Caribbean bring water to Saba this year, like it was done in 2009 and 2013 ?
As stated before, the (Dutch) Cabinet and the Executive Council of Saba work together to structurally improve the water supply and improve the availability of affordable water.
In the case that Saba urgently calls to the (Dutch) government and the Dutch Navy to supply water, then the (Dutch) government will obviously take such a request very seriously and consult within the (Dutch) government what assistance the Dutch Navy can offer.
At this moment there is no talk of such an emergency plan or request in this regard, communication between relevant departments and the public entity Saba has shown such.
If there is an emergency in the future, it is not inconceivable that (in the context of intervention in the public interest) an appeal is made again to the Ministry of Defense.
The one-time transfer of water is obviously not a permanent solution; see answers to questions 3 and 7.
7) What happened to the plans that were made in 2013 to increase water security on Saba ?
The drinking water program, which was drawn up in 2013 with Saba, is in full swing now.
The (Dutch) government is optimistic about the cooperation with the public entity Saba and the implementation of this program which focuses on increasing the storage capacity of water (both drinking water and grea water) and improving the transport of water through pipelines.
At this moment a large gray water storage is built in Windward Side. Construction work is expected to be completed this year. Herein 125,000 gallons (almost 500,000 liters) of water can be stored, for public use. In addition an additional line will be built to The Bottom to pump drinking water to an existing public storage. Also two additional storage ponds are built for drinking water, which can contain 75,000 gallons (about 300.000 liters) each.
Finally, the storage basin underneath the school in St.John’s will be increased.
By increasing the storage capacity of (drinking and gray) water, the two water companies can continue to produce more consistently in order to avoid problems in the dry season.
The (Dutch) government also has the bill on regulations concerning the production and distribution of electricity and drinking water on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba (BES Law electricity and drinking water, kamerstuk 34 089), pending in the Second Chamber. This bill seeks to regulate a reliable, sustainable and affordable electricity and water supply of good quality on Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba.
8) Why is there still no sufficient storage of water on Saba to come through the recurrent periods of drought ?
As said, the (Dutch) government and the public entity Saba agreed to improve the water supply and storage, structural. The execution runs and some key components of it will be realized in the foreseeable future, with which the effects of recurrent droughts can be reduced. That this process took time has partly to do with the natural conditions of Saba.
The island has insufficient sources of fresh water, no natural storage capacity for rainwater and is characterized by hard, rocky ground that complicates the construction of artificial storage and pipelines. The companies that produce drinking water from seawater, for now, have limited production and limited storage capacity. Only with the provision of funding by the (Dutch) government, it is made possible for the public entity Saba in collaboration with the (Dutch) government, to expand this capacity.
The natural conditions on Saba incidentally also entail that the periods of drought – of course – are very different each year. There are years in which there is hardly any shortage of water and the people have sufficient water available from their own cisterns.
9) Are you willing to draw up a plan to make it possible in the short term, to recycle water on Saba that now flows into the sea ?
See the answer to question 7.
10) Are you willing to study in the short term, the possibilities and the costs to extract drinking water from seawater ?
This method (reverse osmosis) has been applied on Saba and is also the most common technique used in the whole region.