NASSAU — Many may ask, who provides clean water in the Bahamas? The answer to such a common question is the Bahamas Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC), which is an entirely government funded group tasked with providing fresh water and sanitation services to all Bahamians.
How Is Water Made Safe to Drink?
Most of the Bahamian islands are groundwater deficient, meaning there is not a great enough amount fresh water available to be purified. Therefore, the WSC’s primary method of producing clean water is desalination through reverse osmosis: the process of turning salt water into fresh water. Desalination via reverse osmosis is not only complicated and expensive, but it is also inefficient and does not provide enough drinking water to meet the needs of all Bahamians.
Prior to 2011, the WSC relied predominantly on barging fresh water from Andros Island (the largest in the Bahamas) to the rest of the nation’s 700 islands.
Improving Water Quality
In an attempt to improve efficiency and reduce dependence on foreign aid, the Bahamian government chose to invest in desalination as the future of water purification. Even after desalination and reverse osmosis, water quality is still questionable by the time it flows through ground pipes and out of faucets in Bahamian homes.
In 2015, the WSC began an initiative to improve water quality in the Bahamas via use of SeaQuest, a chemical which reduces the corrosion of water pipes and results in water with lower concentrations of toxic heavy metals.
SeaQuest is used by professionals in the United States, the U.S. Virgin Islands, Jamaica, Trinidad and Tobago, as well as numerous other nations. The aging infrastructure of the water systems in use throughout the Bahamas exacerbates the issue of poor water quality. As pipes age, they corrode, releasing a slew of potentially harmful chemicals and metals into the water flowing through them.
The use of SeaQuest already shows promise in improving water quality — scientists saw a significant decrease in the amount of chlorine needed to sterilize desalinated water in the Bahamas.
How to Help Improve Water Quality in The Bahamas
The Bahamas are at an extremely high risk of natural disasters such as hurricanes, floods and tropical storms. Most recently, Hurricane Irma hit the Bahamas on September 8th and 9th 2017, causing extensive damage to infrastructure in many of the southern islands.
The best way to give the Bahamas a leg-up in the fight to improve their water quality is to help them improve their infrastructure, and establish more reliable disaster response strategies in anticipation of increasingly frequent storms. One of the larger groups improving infrastructure and responding to disasters in the Bahamas is the United States Agency for International Development (USAID).
Created by President Kennedy in 1961, USAID is the chief United States Government agency focusing on the eradication of global poverty. In the wake of Hurricane Irma, USAID provided assistance to over 3,000 Bahamians affected by the storm.
If the Bahamas can fine-tune their method of desalination, and improve the water infrastructure currently in place, water quality in the Bahamas will not only continue to improve, but will be less susceptible to disruption and contamination.
– Tyler Troped