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Bahamas

Water management, policies and legislation related to water use in agriculture

Institutions

The most important institution responsible for water resources is the Water and Sewerage Corporation (WSC), which is under the jurisdiction of the Minister of Works & Urban Development. The Corporation is a wholly government-owned organization, entrusted with managing, maintaining, distributing and developing the water resources of the Bahamas. Among others, the WSC is responsible of (WSC, 2015):

  • Providing water supplies for domestic, business and other uses
  • Providing adequate drainage and disposal of sewage and other effluent
  • Expanding and extending the water and sewer systems to all parts of the country
  • Ensuring and controlling the optimum development and use of the nationís water resources
  • Serving as advisor to the Minister responsible for water and sewerage resources and systems
  • Drafting regulations for the responsible Ministerís consideration and approval
  • Registering and servicing users of the water and sewerage systems

The WSC owns, operates and manages 83 percent of the countryís water systems, while the private sector accounts for the remaining 17 percent. There is a move toward decentralization and towards increased privatization.

In addition to the WSC, there are three other major water utility entities operating: Paradise Utility (PU), Grand Bahama Utility Company (GBUC) and New Providence Development Company (NPDC). PU is the sole provider of water for Paradise Island and provides sewerage services as well. GBUC is the sole provider of water in Grand Bahama. NPDC supplies water on demand for WSC and operates a distribution system at the south-western end of New Providence. The private services are not approved and monitored by the WSC (USACE, 2004).

Other regulatory agencies, which overlap with WSC on water resource management, are (USACE, 2004):

  • Ministry of Health (MOH), which is entrusted with the administration of the Environmental Health Act (EHA) and the Health Services Act that regulates and monitors the supply of water
  • Department of Environmental Health Services (DEHS), part of the MOH, which is the primary regulatory agency for environmental matters affecting human health and assists in carrying out the requirements of the EHA
  • Ministry of Works and Utilities, which is entrusted with the administration of the Building Control Act and Regulations
  • Ministry of Agriculture, Fisheries and Local Government, which is responsible for the agricultural land, development, and its impact on the environment, including pollution from use of chemical pesticides and overuse of the water supply from irrigation, through the Department of Agriculture
  • Public Utilities Commission (PUC), which determines standards for the provision of public services and regulates the rates to be charged

Water management

WSC has decided to take concrete steps to adopt and implement an Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) plan for the Bahamas. This decision was born out of the strong realisation that the water resources sector was in need of remedy. Efforts to establish an IWRM plan began in 2002 with a national stakeholder meeting and later a workshop organized by the Bahamas Environment Science and Technology Commission (BEST) in 2004. However, the process languished until WSC underwent institutional reform and at its completion, there was a renewed interest in IWRM. In 2007, WSC continued with the planning process. The following initiatives are considered to be included in the plan (GWP, 2011):

  • Involvement of other sectors in water resources management
  • Highest level political commitment to the process
  • Understanding of the linkage between IWRM and programme delivery in other related sectors
  • Commitment to reform the legal and regulatory framework to implement the plan

Finances

One of the biggest concerns related to water resources management is the financial cost associated with producing water and the affordability of water by consumers (GWP, 2011). It is expected that better service and access due to new management plans will bring a reduction in water losses and improvement of meter reading and water fee collection.

Policies and legislation

Many legislative acts and regulations exist related to water resources. The central acts that contribute to the legal framework of the water and sanitation sector include:

  • Water and Sewerage Corporation Act (1976), which placed use of water resources under the control of the government and established WSC to oversee water management and protection
  • Out Islands Utility Act, regulating water management in the Family Islands
  • Environmental Health Act (1987) promoting environmental protection to ensure human health
  • Public Utilities Commission (PUC) Act responsible for the creation of the PUC and regulation of rates and the standards for public utilities
  • Building Control Act (1971)
  • Ministry of the Environment Act (2010), which established the Ministry for the combined water and environmental regulations
  • The Bahamas Forestry Act (2010), which gives partial protection to certain water resources areas

Current legislation, however, does not fully protect the groundwater resources from over-abstraction and pollution, and is not adequate in achieving proper sewage treatment standards (USACE, 2004).

     
   
   
             

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