June 8, 2004
From early childhood, children learnt that Guyana means “land of many waters,” but many people have come to regard this name as something of a misnomer.
They have a good reason to think so. Guyana has vast reserves of fresh water from countless rivers, creeks, streams and the like.
It also has lots of underground water reserves which are usually easily accessible through artesian wells. Further, Guyana has large man-made conservancies like the East Demerara conservancy, the Boeresarie Conservancy and the Mahaicony/Mahaica/Abary conservancy.
Despite having these resources, from the perspective of most households in Guyana, the nation has never been able to supply consumers with enough potable water.
When it comes to getting water for household use in Guyana, it is often a case of water everywhere, but not a drop to drink or use for cooking or bathing. It is an uncomfortable fact that the overwhelming majority of rural and suburban areas in Guyana do not have piped potable water.
Even in urban communities like Georgetown, the densely populated capital of Guyana, piped water is only sporadically available during the day, often at varying degrees of low pressure.
So it is, that for the minority of Guyanese who can afford them, water tanks and water pumps have become essential household appliances.
If you ask the people responsible for Guyana’s water supply – currently Guyana Water Incorporated – why the land of many waters cannot satisfy the water consumption needs of its people, they can give a host of perfectly plausible and acceptable reasons, most of which are related to Guyana’s economic problems.
However, one main reason they always give for the short supply of water to consumers is absolutely unacceptable. This reason is a scathing indictment of water suppliers as well as consumers. That is water wastage.
According to the most recent estimates by GWI, wastage accounts for the loss of 70 percent of the water the company supplies. This means that consumers only get 30 percent of the water made available by suppliers. The company attributes this loss to customer wastage and leaking pipelines.
This is an astounding revelation. For the past several years, suppliers of water have been installing water meters to record water consumption and charge consumers accordingly.
From the start, this was viewed as an initiative to curb water wastage by customers, on the grounds that such wastage would hit consumers’ pockets, where it hurt them most.
Therefore, it seems reasonable to assume that these meters have been effective and many households try to conserve water to keep their water bills down.
If so, then the bulk of the water lost must be through leaking pipelines.
There is no way GWI can sustain such an extraordinary rate of loss through leaking pipelines. The company has no choice but to urgently address the problem of leaking pipes and seek Government’s assistance if necessary to facilitate this.
The pipelines in urban areas like Central Georgetown are notoriously faulty.
The pipes were reportedly put down since early in the last century and have clearly outlived their usefulness. Even if the cost of doing so is high, these pipelines must be systematically rehabilitated. The losses through wastage, if this is not done, would be substantially more costly in the long term.
Unless Government, GWI and consumers of water synchronise their efforts to stop water wastage, there would be little hope of Guyana living up to its name as the land of many waters – at least, not in terms of water available for household consumption.