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Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

Year: 2015 Revision date: -- Revision type: --

Regional report: Southern America, Central America and the Caribbean

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(Click the map to obtain a detailed map)

Geography, climate and population


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is a multi-island state in the Windward Islands at the lower end of the chain of islands in the Caribbean. It is part of the Lesser Antilles, about 34 km southwest of Saint Lucia and 160 km west of Barbados. The islands are located at 13°15’N and 61°15’W. This archipelago of over 30 islands, islets and cays has a combined land area of 390 km2. Mainland Saint Vincent, accounting for 89 percent of the total area, is about 29 km long and 18 km wide. Saint Vincent and the Grenadines is an independent republic within the Commonwealth and gained in 1979 its independence from the United Kingdom.

The country is divided into six parishes: Charlotte, Grenadines, Saint Andrew, Saint David, Saint George and Saint Patrick. The capital is Kingstown.

In 2012, the total physical cultivated area was estimated at 8 000 ha, of which 62.5 percent (5 000 ha) consisted of temporary crops and 37.5 percent (3 000 ha) of permanent crops (Table 1).

Saint Vincent, which is volcanic in origin, has a rugged and mountainous terrain with most of the slopes being greater than 5 percent. The highest point on the island is La Soufriere, an active volcano with a height of 1 234 m at the beginning of a central mountain range that divides the island (Simmons & Associates Inc., 2000). The volcanic ash has produced a fertile soil that has given rise to lush green vegetation. The Grenadines are primarily formed from coral (PAHO, 2002).


Saint Vincent and the Grenadines lie in the path of the northeast trade winds and has a tropical climate. Rainfall and temperature vary with altitude. Mean temperature is around 27°C, dropping by only a few degrees in the cooler months of December to February (UNDP, 2012). The islands have a recorded average annual precipitation of over 1 580 mm, which occurs year round but is higher from July to September. Average annual rainfall ranges from 1 500 mm on the coast to 3 800 mm in the central mountains. There is a wet season from June to December and a dry season from January to May (Joyette, 2007). Monthly averages vary from 220 mm from July to September to 50 mm from February to April.

“El Niño” episodes bring warmer and drier than average conditions between June and August and “La Niña” episodes bring colder and wetter conditions during this period. Hurricanes occasionally hit the islands, which occur throughout August, September and October (UNDP, 2012).


In 2013, the total population was about 109 000 inhabitants, of which 99.8 percent reside on the mainland. All islands of the Grenadines are inhabited with the exception of the Tobago Cays (Simmons & Associates Inc., 2000). Around 50 percent of total population is rural (Table 1). Population density is 279 inhabitants/km2. The average annual population growth rate in the 2003-2013 period has been estimated at 0.05 percent.

In 2012, 95 percent of the total population had access to improved water sources (95 percent in urban and rural areas as well). In 2007, 76 percent of the total population had access to improved sanitation (76 percent in urban and rural areas as well).

Economy, agriculture and food security

In 2013, the gross domestic product (GDP) was US$ 726 million. In 2012, agriculture accounted for 7 percent of GDP, while in 1992 it accounted for 19 percent. In 2013, total population economically active in agriculture is estimated at 11 000 inhabitants (20 percent of economically active population), of which 27 percent is female and 73 percent is male.

Saint Vincent needs to import the majority of its food. In 2013, the country imported US$ 78 million of food products (Statistical Office, 2014b). Agricultural exports in 2013 totaled US$ 8 million (Statistical Office, 2014c).

Water resources

Surface water and groundwater resources

The country has an average annual precipitation of 1 583 mm, or 617 million m3 and renewable water resources are estimated at about 100 million m3/year (Table 2).

The island of Saint Vincent has thickly wooded volcanic mountains running north to south and producing many short, swift streams. The streams are numerous but small and the island is divided into 16 watersheds: Soufriere-Leeward, Soufriere-Windward, Rabacca, Wallilabou, Georgetown, Richmond, Chateaubelair, Cumberland, Colonarie, Peter’s Hope, Buccament Watershed, San Souci, Biabou, Union, Montreal, Kingstown.

Surface water is the main source of freshwater on Saint Vincent, where the abundance of rivers and streams allows for more water being available than is required to meet the average national demand. Rainwater harvesting is informally practiced by only a small fraction of the residents on Saint Vincent, while on the drier islands of the Grenadine rainwater harvesting is the main source of freshwater due to the absence of springs and perennial streams (NEAB/MHE, 2000) (Table 2).

The country presently does not experience water shortage, although there is physical evidence that suggests a reduction in river stream flows and river water quality. This stream flow reduction is predicted to be a possible future problem as the demand for water increases (NWRS/CWSA, 2009).

The Grenadine islands of Bequia, Mustique and Canouan have desalination plants. The plants produced a total of 600 000 m3 of water in 2013.

Lakes and dams

There are no dams, but the Central Water and Sewerage Authority uses a series of water intakes and storage tanks around the island. The total storage capacity on mainland Saint Vincent is 19 836 m3. This consists of a total of 47 reinforced concrete tanks which vary in size from 9 m3 to 2 839 m3 (MoHWE/PAHO, 2013).

There are no natural lakes of importance in the country.

Water use

In 2013, total water withdrawal accounted for 8.502 million m3, of which 8.5 million m3 for municipal uses (CWSA, 2013) (Table 3 and Figure 1). Of the total municipal withdrawal, government institutions are estimated to use 1.3 million m3, commercial uses 0.7 million m3, domestic uses 5.4 million m3, and leakages 1.1 million m3. The total water withdrawal for industrial use is 0.002 million m3. At present equipped areas for irrigation have been abandoned, thus there are no records for withdrawal for irrigation.

Surface water accounts for 93 percent of total withdrawals and desalinated water accounts for 7 percent, or 0.6 million m3 (Figure 2).

Irrigation and drainage

Evolution of irrigation development

Irrigation potential in the country is estimated at 655 ha (Table 4). Irrigation systems were installed during the period 1998-2002 under the National Irrigation Programme with funding from the European Union. The systems were installed in selected areas between San Souci and Rabacca in the North Eastern section of Mainland Saint Vincent and was managed through the Irrigation unit in the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation. There were two types of irrigation systems implemented, micro sprinklers and the drip (Figure 3). Water was piped directly from the Caratal, Colonaire, San Souci, Perseverance, Langley Park and Rabacca rivers. In 2003 the area equipped for irrigation was estimated at 478 ha. Unfortunately, during the troughs (meteorological event bringing clouds, showers and wind shifts) that took place in 2011 and in 2014 the irrigation systems were damaged substantial and they are no longer in use.

Role of irrigation in agricultural production, economy and society

In 2003, the main crops that were irrigated were bananas, plantain and dasheen.

The area equipped for irrigation having been abandoned, all crops grown locally are rainfed and account for 22 percent of the total food exports (Statistical Unit, 2014).

Women and irrigation

Women are mainly involved in field crop maintenance, production for home consumption, post-harvesting and marketing of cash crops. Women have comparatively little or no involvement in the policy development of agricultural organizations. Some women own their own land with their husband, but it is quite rare for an unmarried woman to own her own land (IWRAW, 2016).

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


The Central Water and Sewerage Authority (CWSA), statutory body under the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment, is empowered by Act No. 17 of 1991 to “investigate the water resources of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and advise the Minister relating to the improvement, preservation, conservation, utilization and apportionment of those resources”. The act also indicates that the Authority will control the use of the resource for all other applications, including for irrigation, agriculture, industrial and commercial purposes. The CWSA is responsible for the production and distribution of piped water on Saint Vincent and presently supplies 95 percent of its population (CEHI, 2006).

Apart from the CWSA, the other institutions that play a role in water resources management are the National Irrigation Authority (NIA), the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry Fisheries and Rural Transformation and the Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment (MoHWE) (CEHI, 2001).

Water management

Presently the Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation is working with consultants to develop a rehabilitation project for the irrigation systems that got damaged by the troughs.

Policies and legislation

The monitoring, measurement or protection of water resources is mentioned or implied by a number of Acts of the Assembly of the Government of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines:

  1. The Central Water and Sewerage Authority, Act 1991: includes in the functions of CWSA to investigate the water resources of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, and to advise and make recommendations to the Minister relating to the improvement, preservation, conservation, utilization, and apportionment of those resources.
  2. The National Irrigation Authority Act, 2004: mandates NIA, in collaboration with the CWSA, to investigate the water resources of Saint Vincent and the Grenadines and advise the Minister on matters relating to improving or expanding existing irrigation schemes and creating new irrigation schemes.
  3. The Forest Resource Conservation Act, 1992: charges the Director of Forestry with the protection and preservation of water resources in forest reserves, cooperative forests, conservation areas and along streams and rivers in cooperation with the CWSA and Saint Vincent Electricity Services.
  4. The Public Health Act, 1977: defines the functions of the Public Health Department, which include “to promote the public health and the prevention, limitation and suppression of communicable or preventable diseases within Saint Vincent”.
  5. The Environmental Health Services Act, 1991: further emphasizes pollution control. It is the responsibility of the Minister to regulate, monitor and control the actual and likely contamination or pollution of the environment from any source.
  6. The National Parks Act, 2002: established the National Parks, Beaches and Rivers Authority. The Authority shall have power and control over all rivers, streams, springs, swamps, waterfalls, waterpools and beaches in the State.

Environment and health

The most challenging issue on Saint Vincent is the turbidity of the water. Turbidity can range between 10 and 75NTUs but can exceed 100NTUs during and after heavy rainfall events. The CWSA has implemented a strict maintenance programme at the water intakes (MoHWE/PAHO, 2013).

There are three laboratories that conduct water quality testing locally. The laboratory at the CWSA carries out weekly sampling at the larger treatment plants and bi-weekly sampling of water from the sources, smaller treatment facilities and areas along the distribution network. Tests are conducted to investigate chemical and microbial parameters (MoHWE/PAHO, 2013). The CWSA adheres to the WHO Guidelines for drinking water quality (WHO, 2011).

The Public Health Department of the MoHWE conducts routine spot checks at various sites around the island, mainly public stand pipes, clinics and schools. Analysis is conducted for residual chlorine, turbidity and pH.

The Saint Vincent and the Grenadines Bureau of Standards conducts water quality testing mainly on the bottled water for commercial use and export. Routine testing on the public water distribution system is not done unless it is requested by the Public Health Department in the event of abnormal results in their routine spot check.

In 2012, there were 880 people in the country affected by water-related diseases which include water-borne, water-based and water-based insect vector diseases. The majority of these reported cases were seen in the gastro intestinal infections (MoHWE, 2013).

Prospects for agricultural water management

In order establish the planned National Water Resources Management Agency, it is planned to enact a Water Resources Act. There would be a Management Board comprising representatives from water abstractors, industry, water-related organizations and local residents. The activities of the Agency would be overseen by a Government Minister, who would approve proposed standards and adjudicate in cases of appeal against agency decisions. Some current functions of the CWSA, such investigating the water resources of St Vincent and the Grenadines, advising and making recommendations to the Minister relating to the improvement, preservation, conservation, utilization, and apportionment of those resources, will be carried out by the Water Resources Management Agency (NWRS/CWSA, 2009).

Main sources of information

Agricultural Planning and Statistical Office. 2013. Registration records of the Ministry of Agriculture Planning and Statistical Unit. Ministry of Agriculture, Industry, Forestry, Fisheries and Rural Transformation. St. Vincent and the Grenadines

CEHI. 2001. National report integrating management of watersheds & coastal areas in SIDS of the Caribbean: A Vincentian perspective. Caribbean Environmental Health Institute. Castries. St. Lucia.

CEHI. 2006. Promoting rainwater harvesting in the Caribbean regional strategic planning workshop proceedings, March 2009. Caribbean Environmental Health Institute. British Virgin Islands. United Nations Environment Programme (UNEP).

CWSA. 2013. Water resource and water production. Central Water and Sewerage Authority, Water Resource Management Unit. Kingstown. St. Vincent.

IWRAW. 2016. Country reports. St. Vincent and the Grenadines. International Women's Rights Action Watch.

Joyette, A. R. 2007. An assessment of the climate of St. Vincent and the Grenadines: Reviewing trends in identified variables, identifying risks and providing guidance. Limited circulation study. SVGNT-CCCCC.

MoHWE. 2013. Monitoring and evaluation health sector report 2013. Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment. Kingstown. St. Vincent

MoHWE/PAHO. 2013. Draft water safety plan. Ministry of Health, Wellness and the Environment. Kingstown. St. Vincent

NEAB/MHE. 2000. Initial national communication on climate change: St. Vincent and the Grenadines. National Environmental Advisory Board / Ministry of Health and the Environment. Organisation of American States. Washington D.C., U.S.A.

NWRS/CWSA. 2009. National water resource management study - main final report. National Water Resource Study/Central Water and Sewage Authority. Egis Bceom International.

PAHO. 2002. Health in the Americas 2002 edition. Pan American Health Organization. Washington, DC. PAHO Scientific and Technical Publication No 587.

Simmons & Associates Inc. 2000. National biodiversity strategy and action plan for St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Statistical Office. 2001. St Vincent and the Grenadines population and housing census 2001 preliminary report. Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Statistical Office. 2014a. Table 1. Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Statistical Office. 2014b. Table 2. Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Statistical Office. 2014c. Table 4. Ministry of Finance, Planning and Development. St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

UNDP. 2012. UNDP climate change country profiles. St Vincent and the Grenadines.

WHO. 2011. Guidelines for drinking water quality, 4th Edn. World Health Organization. Geneva. Switzerland.

World Bank. Average monthly temperature and rainfall for Saint Vincent and the Grenadines from 1960-1990. Climate Change Knowledge Portal.

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