EARTH is the water planet
Guyana Chronicle
March 26, 2003

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There is a precious film of water, mostly salted, covering some 71 per cent of the earth's surface.

All living organisms are made up of water; a tree is about 60 per cent water by weight while humans and animals are about 50-65 per cent water.

While we each need about a dozen cups of water per day to survive in a healthy fashion, we require huge amounts of water to supply us with food, shelter, and our other needs and wants.

Water is also one of the key elements in sculpting the earth's surface; moderating the earth's climate, and diluting the earth's pollutants.

Essentially therefore, water is the lifeblood of the biosphere. It connects us to one another, to other forms of life and to the entire planet.

Sandra Postel reminds us that, 'It is impossible to talk about the history of human civilisation without talking about water. The story of settled agriculture, the growth of cities, and the rise of early empires is to no small degree a story of controlling water in order to make the land more prosperous and habitable'.

In spite of its importance, water is one of our most poorly managed resources. We waste it and we pollute it.

Very often governments charge much too little for making it available, thus encouraging still greater waste and pollution of this important resource.

Yet there is still no known substitute for this resource

In today's world, water remains the key to sustainable development. Water issues are quickly becoming the world's most important general development issue.

And since it represents a profound need of both organism and society, a crucial question is how can the need be met in a secure manner.

This has thrown out a challenge of unprecedented magnitude and complexity to the water management profession and to nations, especially, those of the developing world.

With the merger of the Guyana Water Authority and the Georgetown Sewerage and Water Commission the Government of Guyana has established Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) to provide adequate quality and quantities of water to the nation.

In this process, and for the next five years, GWI is being led by the Severn Trent Water International, (STWI), via a DFID funded programme based management contract.

The objective of the contract is to transform GWI into an independent, financially viable business with a strong customer service focus.

However, this is no easy task.

In Guyana, the amount of water that goes unaccounted for is 62 per cent, and more than half of this is wasted by the consumer on a daily basis.

In essence, GWI invests in pumping and piping this water but receives no revenue for it and so the consumer, guilty and innocent is made to suffer.

This has been the age-old story of Guyana, the Land of Many Waters.

The problem is not only one of the quality and quantity but of the efficient management of water as well. As such the STWI/GWI cannot be concerned with providing potable water alone.

Their role in providing safe water must be expanded to include good stewardship.

This effort requires that STWI must strive not only to be leaders but to be recognised as committed stewards of good water policy.

Importantly however, the principle of committed stewardship is not the concern of STWI alone.

The Guyanese consuming public must recognise that we are all stakeholders in the process of good water management.

This understanding is critical if we are ever to appreciate the value of water and so manage it in a way that properly reflects its economic, social, environmental and cultural values.

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