Water crisis runs on By Johann Earle
Stabroek News
March 31, 2007

Related Links: Articles on water
Letters Menu Archival Menu

Engineers continued yesterday to flush sediment from the Lamaha Canal and though water from the canal is flowing through the taps the utility has warned city residents against drinking it since it hasn't been purified.

The canal is a major supplier of water to the city but access had to be discontinued several days ago after work on the East Demerara conservancy left it heavily sedimented.

The Guyana Water Inc (GWI) said that the water will continue to be discoloured and could be used for flushing of toilets. GWI asked too that parents ensure that their children do not drink the water from the taps. The advisory remains in effect until further notice.

Meanwhile, various services in the city are either affected, or have had to take measures to ensure that their operations continue seamlessly.

The St Joseph Mercy Hospital has had to purchase several truckloads of water for its needs since the shortage of water in the city but noted that the situation there is comfortable for staff and patients.

Speaking to this newspaper yesterday, Marjorie Park, Assistant Administrator at the hospital, said that memos were sent to the staff asking them to conserve water and check and notify management of leaks in the plumbing. She said that the hospital has not gone into crisis mode for the time being.

Michael Khan, CEO of the Georgetown Public Hospital Corporation, said that the hospital has water and is not really affected by the shortage. He said that fire tenders are assisting with the delivery of water and that the hospital has a large reservoir. He said staffers at the hospital are given bottled water. A cursory check around the city yesterday revealed that Thomas Street, Kitty has low pressure in the mornings while some parts of Duncan Street received no water at all. In Alberttown, the water is gone after 8 am and comes back during the night.

Harold Dass, Administra-tor of Woodlands Hospital, said that he is keeping in touch with the Shelter Belt for information as to when the situation will improve. He said that the water came for three hours yesterday morning and the hospital was making arrangements to collect two tanks of drinkable water.

At the abattoir on Water Street, the situation was much worse as the slaughtering process is affected. According to a senior officer who asked not to be named, there is no water there except in the nights, when the facility is closed. The person said that they have to fill up tanks overnight and the little that is caught must be stretched.

"We have very little water to wash blood from the floor after animals are slaughtered," the official said. The officer added that only priority areas are cleaned with the little water that is gathered. The person said too that on Thursday only the kitchen could have been cleaned with the water that was available.

Manager of Cara Lodge Joseph Tenpow said that the hotel has a large reservoir so there was no crisis there. He said that the 20,000-gallon reservoir will last for one week.

According to Tenpow, they receive water from the taps and he is not worried about the state of this water since his hotel has the capacity to purify that water and make it safe for drinking. He said that this is a feature of all the Cara Hotels here.

GWI executive Yuri Chandisingh said that the condition of the Lamaha Canal is not yet improved to a point where the company can deliver potable water. But the company commenced distributing water from the Lamaha Canal yesterday and advised that this not be used for drinking.

"This morning (yesterday) we commenced delivery at 4.30 [and went until] 8.30 at very low pressure. At 9.00 we delivered at high pressure," he said. According to Chandisingh, delivery will from today commence at 4.30 and go until midnight, until further notice.

Chandisingh said that the company was rebuilding its storage and doing whatever treatment it can to deliver at normal pressure. He expressed the hope that by yesterday afternoon the Drainage and Irrigation Board would have commissioned the pump to flush the canal.

GWI's Scientific Services Manager Savitree Jetoo said that though the turbidity in the water is still high, the company has commenced distribution to the city, warning people not to consume it.

She said that the turbidity of the water has come down by about a third of what it was some days ago, but it needs to come down further for it to be treated. She said that the East Demerara Water Conservancy (EDWC) had engaged in dredging without notifying the water utility.

Minister of Agriculture Robert Persaud said that as of yesterday afternoon a large pump was commissioned in Sophia to pump the turbid water out of the Lamaha Canal. He said that he has asked the engineers to have the pump work around the clock to ensure that silted up water doesn't reach the Shelter Belt area.

A source close to the EDWC said that it was GWI that asked that the cleaning be done in the first place.

According to Jetoo, the company is aiming to get the turbidity to a level that would allow for purification.

When this newspaper called the Minister of Water Harry Narine Nawbatt, he said that water is being distributed and he expressed the hope that the situation would improve.

The problem comes amid the hosting of the cricket world cup and increased numbers of visitors to the country.