World Water Day observed with focus on Groundwater use and management

The need for sustainable use and management of Groundwater was the focus as Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) and the Ministry of Housing and Water joined the rest of the world on Tuesday, March 22 to observe World Water Day 2022 under the theme “Groundwater: making the invisible visible.”

This year’s observance was marked with the hosting of an exhibition at the National Cultural Center tarmac featuring booths from various GWI departments as well as the Central Housing and Planning Authority (CH&PA) Hydromet Department of the Ministry of Agriculture, United Nations Children’s Fund (UNICEF) and the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA).

Minister Croal and other officials are assisted by two students in the ribbon cutting exercise

Among the main attractions were a wastewater treatment model, on-site water quality testing, a model of a Hinterland water supply system along with the display of a well drilling rig coupled with a wide array of information and displays on Groundwater.

Speaking at the opening of the exhibition, Minister of Housing and Water, Hon. Collin Croal stressed the need to explore, analyze and monitor Guyana’s groundwater resources to better protect and manage them.

According to him, this requires accountability, new technologies to optimize water usage, data to inform policy decisions in the water sector, cross sectoral coordination of policy at all levels, capacity developments and public education that is enforced.

“Given Guyana’s increasing demand for access to clean water, we have to explore all of the available sources within the aim of protecting them. Consistent clean water supply is often under threat of pollution, Climate Change, wastage, droughts, heat waves and inadequate protection,” Minister Croal added.

A GWI staff explains wastewater treatment to Minister Croal, GWI’s CEO, Shaik Baksh & other officials

He called for the intensifying of cooperation and collaboration among all stakeholders to ensure that this life saving resource is never in crisis.

The Minister took the opportunity to highlight that Guyana is home to large bodies of surface water and it is easy to take the commodity for granted. He alluded particularly to leaky taps, broken mains, taps not being turned off, animal waste contamination and other similar incidences despite best efforts of GWI to continuously educate the populace on dangers of these practices.

Minister Croal noted that the Government of Guyana recognizes that the delivery of a reliable supply of clean, safe water is a basic right for all citizens. Hence, since taking office in August 2020, over $21.5B has been invested for water and sanitation.

He further stated that improving the quality of water available, upgrading infrastructure, repairing and replacing broken mains, expanding water coverage to more citizens and replacing old transmission mains have resulted in more than 11,000 citizens gaining first time and improved access to potable water.

These efforts are continuous as Government through GWI works to increase water access from 96 to 100 percent, increase treated water coverage on the coastland from 52 to 90 percent and increase water access in the hinterland from 60 to 100 percent.

Meanwhile, Chief Executive Officer of GWI, Mr. Shaik Baksh also stressed the need for the sustainable management and use of groundwater. The need for more data on the aquifers in Guyana was noted.

He highlighted GWI’s efforts to undertake studies of Guyana’s coastal aquifer with funding being actively addressed by the Government at the highest levels. The CEO said that GWI has already secured funding for the study in the Takutu basin in Region 9 through a grant by the Japanese Government under the Global Water Initiative

A section of the gathering at the World Water day observance

Further, the company has already moved to secure funding through the Green Climate to build climate resilient infrastructure across the hinterland, particularly in Region 9.

Mr. Baksh explained that GWI has been intensifying efforts to better manage groundwater sources and this includes through the better management of infrastructure which has in some communities resulted in the avoidance of drilling new wells. Metering has also been intensified to reduce water losses.

He also called for Behavioural change which starts at the school level and this regard, GWI will in 2022 create a booklet on water for use in schools.

Chief Hydrometeorological Officer of the Ministry of Agriculture, Dr. Garvin Cummings said that Groundwater has to be protected, smartly managed and utilized by making it visible through collective actions.

According to him, GWI’s 135 wells on coastland in 2020 were extracting 400,000 cubic meters of water per day. Coupled with the beverage industry and other privately owned wells, this figure would increase this figure substantially

“While, theoretically, our supply exceeds our demand, the current situation is clearly unsustainable and this has to be addressed through collective national action that leads to policies which allow us to effectively manage this resource,” he stressed.

Dr. Cummings outlined ways in which groundwater can be made visible, as identified by the Stockholm International water institute. This includes through:  De-mystifying groundwater, understanding its complexity, getting data on aquifers and their use and assessing the impact of climate change.

He pointed out that Government is taking action to manage water resources through the Draft Low Carbon Development Strategy (LCDS).

Through the Hydromet Department, in 2022, Water quality monitoring is being strengthened through procurement of an Atomic Absorption Spectrometer and groundwater/aquifer mapping is being addressed through the procurement and training for use of a resistivity meter. This amounts to over $50M in investments this year.