Dry season and ashfall impacting Grenadines limited water

By Demion McTair. Updated 1:38 p.m., Monday, April 12, 2021, Atlantic Standard Time (GMT-4).

Authorities on mainland, St. Vincent usually step in to provide drinking water to residents of The Grenadines when Grenadines resources run critically low.

Due to thick ashfall from the La Soufriere volcanic eruption, however, the mainland is in dire need of drinking water.

The Dalaway Water System in Vermont, St. Vincent inundated with volcanic ash from the eruption of the La Soufriere volcano. Photo: CWSA.

The Grenadines, however, is facing two water challenges at the moment, Teacher and businessman at Union Island, Abdon Whyte told One News in an interview on Sunday.

“The first challenge is dealing with a dry season and the other one is clearing our house roofs from the volcanic ash from St. Vincent,” Mr. Whyte said.

The Grenadines is an archipelago of islands belonging to the State of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. About seven (7) of the islands are inhabited, stretching from Young island in the northern part of the archipelago to Petite St. Vincent in the southern part.

Map of St. Vincent and the Grenadines. Photo: worldometers.info

Unlike the mainland, the islands in The Grenadines have no rivers and rely on rainwater catchment systems such as house roofs, wells, and concrete catchments.

Some of the islands, like Bequia, have desalination systems to help supplement the water system.

Runoff water from house roofs is collected and stored in secured concrete or plastic tanks for cooking and drinking, while water from wells and catchments goes towards washing and feeding animals.

Coping with the impact of the La Soufriere eruption

Residue from volcanic ash in a house roof runoff system in Bequia.

Since the eruption of La Soufriere began on April 9, people in both the northern and southern Grenadines have had to disconnect their roof catchment systems that were attached to their sealed tanks, to prevent volcanic ash from getting in their tanks.

On the northern Grenadine island of Bequia, school teacher Doccy Gregg told One News SVG, Monday, in an interview that people have since been reconnecting their water collection systems after recent heavy rains helped clear their roofs of volcanic ash.

She also sent us photos of people manually cleaning out the water collection systems on their roofs to make it safe for capturing rainwater again.

Someone cleaning volcanic ash from a roof water capturing system in Bequia. Photo: Dawana Gregg.

In the southern Grenadines, the situation is a bit more compounded.

The southern Grenadines area has been battling a severe dry weather situation.

The islands often face water availability issues but the La Soufriere eruption has compounded the situation.

“St. Vincent (referring to the mainland) can’t help us now if there is a water problem,” Mr. Whyte told One News on Sunday in an interview.

He said residents of Union Island also had to disconnect their spoutings attached to their sealed tanks to prevent volcanic ash from getting in their tanks from their roofs.

He said, however, “we waiting for a large shower of rain to wash off the ash from our house roofs before we reconnect to our tanks”.

Apart from the dry weather and the clearing of volcanic ash, the cost of water is also a concern in the Southern Grenadines.

Water is trucked from the mainland and sold. For 800 gallons of water, it will cost a family some $200 EC dollars, $100 to purchase the water, and another $100-$150 to truck it to their homes on Union Island, Whyte told One News SVG.

Whyte said an 800 gallons supply can last a family of five for about up to two weeks.

Though Union Island has large catchments, including a new one at Clifton, if the situation gets critical, they might not have enough water.

If the dry season exacerbates and there is little rainfall or more ashfall from the volcano, it can significantly compound the situation.

Donations have been coming to mainland St. Vincent from friendly governments, which include fresh drinking water.

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