ST. KITTS AND NEVIS — The Federation of St. Kitts and Nevis is a country of two small, tropical, mountainous islands in the eastern Caribbean Sea. With beaches composed of black and silver volcanic fertile sand, the country has a combined area of 104 square miles and is well-watered.
In 2012, 98 percent of the population had access to good water quality in St. Kitts and Nevis, which has about 23.6 million cubic meters of renewable surface and ground water sources.
The largest lake in the country is the Great Salt Pond; the seasonable Wingfield and Cayon rivers discharge in a radial pattern into the Caribbean Sea during the wetter part of the year. Coastal aquifers are the main source of groundwater, which flow into seven basins. Due to rising sea levels, the groundwater supply is presently threatened by salt intrusion from the sea water.
Freshwater in St. Kitts and Nevis comes primarily in the form of rainfall. The quality of water for human consumption is monitored by the Environmental Health Department. An antiquated law called the 1956 Water Courses and Water Works Ordinance gives authority to the Water Department to protect freshwater supply sources. Unfortunately, the freshwater habitats are not completely protected due to a lack of control mechanisms. Because tourists and the locals may visit these out-of-bounds habitats regularly, severe pollution is thought to exist.
In celebrating the World Water Day earlier this year, the Minister of Public Infrastructure, Ian ‘Patches’ Liburd, reaffirmed the country’s commitment to helping achieve the United Nations Sustainable Development Goals (SDG), which call for countries to improve their water resources.
Liburd noted that one of the SDG goals that needed to be achieved is by “turn(ing) the spotlight on reducing and reusing wastewater.” He stated that the Federation’s wastewater was properly treated and went on to explain the importance of the island’s accessible water resources, as well as its effects on the residents’ lives:
“There has always been a direct correlation between access to safe drinking water, proper treatment and disposal of wastewater and human health. This is evidenced in St. Kitts and Nevis by our low infant mortality rate and decreasing incidences of water related gastrointestinal illnesses among our population. This was achieved by providing universal access to clean drinking water, a program of disinfection of the Federation’s water supply and onsite treatment of wastewater.”
Soil erosion, deforestation and water pollution remain the most significant challenges in maintaining good water quality in St. Kitts and Nevis. The government has taken steps to address these challenges by introducing the National Conservation and Environmental Protection Act and the Letter Act, which seek to address the prevalent environmental concerns of the Federation.
The government of St. Kitts and Nevis has expressed interest in participating in regional projects in order to adapt to climate change. However, the United Nation Development Programme has encouraged the government to move beyond theoretical adaptation actions in favor of an “on-the-ground” approach in a national strategy for climate change adaptation, as there is no comprehensive plan for dealing with the impacts of climate change.
To help improve water quality in St. Kitts and Nevis, the Federation needs to abide by these suggestions, current regulations and acts. It also needs to manage its waste disposal, especially in the ghauts, which are the mediums of rainwater coursing into the sea, and regularly and adequately manage, monitor and test its water sites. Educating the public through outreach efforts and awareness programs will be an integral component of the entire process.
– Mohammed Khalid