WASCO – Sir John Compton Dam

The Star (St. Lucia) - - LOCAL - By Michele-Lau­ren Hack­shaw

The Sir John Compton Dam is surrounded by lush veg­e­ta­tion and looks to be filled with pris­tine wa­ters. How­ever, silt has been build­ing up, es­pe­cially since Hur­ri­cane To­mas in 2010 and a se­vere trough in De­cem­ber 2013, which both also con­trib­uted to heavy land­slides in the Roseau reser­voir and re­sulted in a re­duced ca­pac­ity of about thirty per­cent.

Though the tech­ni­cal process of the de­sil­ta­tion has be­gun, there is no set date as to when it will phys­i­cally com­mence. Still it is some­thing that needs to be done due to the amount of heavy sil­ta­tion, es­pe­cially af­ter hur­ri­cane To­mas.

“One of our ports – we have two ports in the dam, a lower port and an up­per port - ex­tracts the wa­ter from the reser­voir. The bot­tom one is ac­tu­ally blocked up with silt, there­fore we’re us­ing the up­per port. That’s why dur­ing the dry sea­son, as the lev­els are drop­ping, we have to now start ra­tioning wa­ter be­cause we don’t have ac­cess to the lower port,” Se­nior Su­per­vi­sor Wa­ter Ser­vices, Timothy James, told the when we vis­ited the dam this week.

James said the de­sil­ta­tion process could take a pe­riod of five years to com­plete once they have a start date. He also noted that in or­der to find a suit­able tech­ni­cal method, WASCO had to con­sider how it would be done with­out dis­rupt­ing wa­ter sup­ply and qual­ity. He re­marked that while they’d found a way around the is­sue, it was now a mat­ter of sourc­ing the right con­trac­tors and cost.

James elab­o­rated on the cause of the ex­cess sil­ta­tion in the dam: “Our pumps were de­stroyed af­ter To­mas, and that’s where the heavy sil­ta­tion came from. And ac­tu­ally, we were out of wa­ter sup­ply for a month, and so we had to use other sources [of wa­ter] like Ravine Pois­son and Va­nard.”

Speak­ing on is­sues that arise dur­ing the drought sea­son, James noted that WASCO usu­ally im­ple­ments a wa­ter­ra­tioning sched­ule so that re­sources won’t de­plete rapidly. He said the drought sea­son was usu­ally “a bad pe­riod of a three­month dry spell”.

“That’s why we have other sup­ply sources whereby we re­duce the amount of wa­ter we take from the dam,” he said. “We nor­mally ex­tract on av­er­age 7.1 mil­lion gal­lons a day from the dam.”

Con­trary to pub­lic per­cep­tion, James said the is­land has not yet recorded any droughts for 2017, due to steady rain­fall.

“Our level is just about two feet be­low the over­flow level at this point. Nor­mally around this time, we usu­ally are in a wa­ter-ra­tioned mode, about six feet be­low. So this year is re­ally good.”

In his opin­ion the wa­ter con­ser­va­tion is­sue re­lies on the peo­ple. “They’re only more con­scious of it when we’re in the dry pe­riod,” James said. “Af­ter that peo­ple get back to their merry ways. Dur­ing the drought, that’s when ev­ery­one is more sen­si­tive to wa­ter.”

On the con­trary, there are a lot of ar­eas in Saint Lu­cia that un­dergo is­sues with wa­ter con­sis­tency. This is not be­cause of lack of sup­ply from the dam but the lo­ca­tion and struc­tures of some ar­eas. In the dry sea­son a lot of the ru­ral ar­eas ex­pe­ri­ence wa­ter prob­lems whereas dur­ing the rainy sea­son, typ­i­cally, there aren’t as many is­sues.

“We have ar­eas in Babon­neau that some­times we have to sched­ule the wa­ter for every­body be­cause we have to up­grade our pipe­lines,” James said. He em­pha­sised that those are things WASCO is work­ing on, and they have in fact come a long way in the last few years.

The Roseau Reser­voir.

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