Opportunities from exploiting waste water highlighted at World Water Day 2017

GINA, GUYANA, Wednesday, March 22, 2017

The Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and the Ministry of Public Health marked World Water Day 2017 today, with a joint press conference aimed at highlighting the importance of exploiting wastewater as a resource, and not as waste.

It also sought to emphasis the steps which are being taken to position Guyana to take advantage of these opportunities.

Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for water, Dawn Hastings- Williams, addressing the World Water Day 2017 conference held in the GWI’s Boardroom at Vlissengen Road and Church Street, Bel Air

The event held in GWI’s Boardroom at Vlissengen Road and Church Street, Bel Air, was addressed by Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for water, Dawn Hastings-Williams, Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings, Managing Director of GWI, Dr. Richard Van West-Charles and Sanitation Manager, GWI, Rensford Joseph. The theme for World Water Day 2017 is ‘Why waste water?’ and it is about reducing and reusing wastewater.

About 80 percent of wastewater generated by society flows back into the ecosystem without treatment and reuse. Guyana has not embarked on the treatment of waste water.

Minister Hastings-Williams explained that GWI is currently working to install wastewater treatment plants in Georgetown. Further, the water company, in its five-year Strategic Business Plan has included the construction of wastewater management plants for the 10 administrative regions. The erection of such wastewater treatment plants will be based on the particular needs of the respective communities, the minister explained. GWI will also soon be introducing a pilot project to improve the performance of on-site treatment facilities such as septic tanks, she explained.

(From left to right) Sanitation Manager, GWI, Rensford Joseph, Minister within the Ministry of Communities, with responsibility for water, Dawn Hastings- Williams, and Minister within the Ministry of Public Health, Dr. Karen Cummings at the World Water Day 2017 conference

Dr. Van West-Charles highlighted that “despite a plethora of septic tanks countrywide, GWI has over the years observed a deviation from the established designs and construction of these units. Our engineers are therefore collectively seeking to arrive at more efficient septic tank designs and in some cases, looking at their replacement with wastewater treatment plants,” he explained.

The Managing Director explained that GWI’s focus is also on the conversion of the sewerage collection station at Tucville, Georgetown, to a sewerage treatment plant, with future plans for energy generation in the distant future.  He said that to ensure compliance and the embrace of the behavioural change required, the water company is also reviewing the necessary regulation to support the initiative.

Meanwhile, Minister Cummings highlighted the potential for outbreaks of wastewater related illnesses in many small communities across Guyana. She noted that to protect public health, more water and wastewater treatment projects need to be given significant priority.

Managing Director of GWI, Dr. Richard Van West- Charles addressing the World Water Day 2017 conference held in GWI’s Boardroom at Vlissengen Road and Church Street, Bel Air

The minister pointed out that community leaders and residents need to be more aware of potential problems so that strategies could be put in place to counter any potential risks. “Rural homeowners need to learn about what is good and bad for their onsite systems, what maintenance is needed, and how to identify possible problems. Communities with wells need to be informed about the value of well water testing and be made aware of how to prevent contamination,” the minister said.

“In Guyana, we need to ensure that our communities regularly monitor local water quality. Sometimes illegally dumped wastes can threaten water and groundwater resources. Strategies are needed for identifying and solving local pollution problems, and residents, businesses, and industry need to be further educated about the health dangers associated with untreated wastewater,” she added.

The Minister said that Public Health too plays its part with regards to the development of wastewater use and its treatment. She said that ministry will continue to work in a coordinated, collaborative, multi-disciplinary way while utilising a cross-sectoral approach to address any public health issue that may arise as a result of wastewater contamination.

Staff of GWI at the World Water Day 2017 conference

Joseph also stressed the need for Guyanese to place emphasis on treating with water use and conservation. “Guyana is considered the land of many waters, but if we as a country do not focus on proper wastewater management, soon we would have a situation where many of our fresh water are no longer good for use, because they are contaminated by the activities that are happening on land,” he pointed out.

Bearing this in mind, the Sanitation Manager noted that wastewater must no longer be seen as a problem, but rather as an opportunity. He stressed the need for the reusing of the water in agriculture and in energy. Joseph noted that wastewater is a rich source of fertiliser for maximising production yield in agriculture and for energy production. He noted that the Georgetown Sewerage system alone, with a daily discharge of over 10,000 cubic meters, has the potential to generate as much as 50kilowatt or 0.35megawatts of power per day.

World Water Day is observed annually on March 22 around the world as a means of focusing attention on the importance of freshwater and advocating for the sustainable management of freshwater resources. This is the first year, since the United Nations General Assembly designated March 22 in 1993 as the first World Water Day that the focus is on wastewater and not fresh water.

By: Macalia Santos

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