New water pipeline inaugurated in Saba

— Water transport system to be further expanded —

Commissioner Bruce Zagers per­formed the official opening of the new water transport system from Fort Bay Harbour to The Bottom on Tuesday. The new waterline, which was built last year, will sig­nificantly reduce the water price to US $60 per 1,000 gallons with the same rate applying to all parts of the island.

A visiting delegation that in­cluded Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops attended Tuesday’s ceremony, as well as several Government officials and repre­sentatives of the companies that were involved in the planning and construction.

Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Fred Grapperhaus (left) and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops (centre) performed the symbolic inauguration of the new water transport system by turning the valve. Together with Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers, a water truck was filled. (Photo The Daily Herald)

Grapperhaus and Knops per­formed the symbolic inaugura­tion by turning the valve of the waterline in The Bottom. Prior to that symbolic inauguration, Zag­ers gave a summary of the proj­ect. After the official opening, a water truck was filled.

The milestone was the result of a multi-year co­operation with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W), formerly Infra­structure and Environ­ment (I&M). In 2014, Saba signed the first covenant with I&M to start a water project to solve the prob­lems that faced the island, both in quantity and qual­ity.

The agreement with the Ministry focussed on build­ing a pipeline for cost-effi­cient transport, creating ad­ditional cisterns for water storage and finding a solu­tion for affordable drinking water. The Electricity and Drinking Water Law BES [Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba — Ed.], which became effective in June 2016, was a driving factor behind this development, as well as the clear need expressed by the public entity Saba to ensure the provision of more af­fordable water, explained Zagers.

A second covenant was signed in 2015 which fur­ther supported the initia­tives of the first agreement. In 2016, Saba started re­ceiving a structural subsidy from the Ministry to reduce the cost of water on the is­land based on the Electric­ity and Drinking Water Law BES.

With the incidental fund­ing and the structural sub­sidy from the Netherlands, Saba was able to carry out a number of projects, includ­ing the pipeline from Fort Bay to the cisterns in The Range in The Bottom, with three pump-houses.

Other projects were: two cisterns on Fort Bay Road with a holding capacity of 60,000 gallons each, three cisterns at the Windward-side parking lot with a holding capacity of 40,000 gallons each, a cistern at Lollipops in St. Johns with a holding capacity of 20,000 gallons, and a filling station in The Bottom behind the Government Administra­tion Building.

Another project is the pipeline to Windwardside, which will be commis­sioned soon and should be completed this year, Zagers announced. The pipeline in Windwardside will end at the big parking lot where a filling station will be built. This pipeline will also ex­tend to some larger water consumers, like hotels, near the pipeline. Once the pipeline to Windward-side is completed, it will continue to Zion’s Hill by the church. The pipe will also extend to the lower St. Johns area by the school.

A bottling plant will be built to solve the quality issue. “With this bottling plant, we can offer afford­able and quality drinking water,” said Zagers, who clarified that Vitens Evides International (VEI) was advising on the water plant to ensure that the quality standards prescribed in the law are met.

A bidding process to find a supplier for the waterline started last year and was supervised by water consul­tancy company VEI which has been supporting Saba with the water project for several years. VEI has ad­vised on the project’s finan­cial feasibility and the tech­nical designs of the pipeline system, and has been in­volved in the commission­ing and maintenance train­ings after installation of the pumps.

AquaSab won the bid for the water project based on several criteria: water qual­ity 30 per cent, constant availability of water 10 per cent, continuity of wa­ter supply 20 per cent and price 40 per cent.

Cost reduction

“Throughout the process the public entity has made it very clear that the main goal of this new form of water supply is to reduce the cost of water for the citizens of Saba. Therefore, price was the most impor­tant criterion in the bidding process,” explained Zagers.

VEI carried out inde­pendent water tests at the two reverse-osmosis (RO) plants on the island and re­viewed the technical aspects of both plants to make sure a well-informed decision could be made with regard to quality, availability and continuity of supply.

VEI also provided its ex­pert advice on the submit­ted proposals in the bidding process. This advice showed that differences in water quality, availabil­ity and continuity of supply were very minimal, which resulted in price being the decisive factor for the win­ning bid.

Agreements were made recently with truckers for maximum trucking prices per 1,000-gallon truckloads to anywhere on the island. With the pipeline system, the water supply contract and the agreement with the truckers, the water price can now be reduced to $60 per 1,000 gallons. There is no longer a differentia­tion based on location. The $60 is a maximum amount; truckers can charge less per load, but not more.

The new maximum price is only valid for water pur­chased from the Govern­ment water system. To make a water price of $60 possible while the project is still ongoing, the Saba Gov­ernment decided to tempo­rarily increase the subsidy provided for transport cost until all filling stations are operational.

Before this project started, water prices were between $110 and $175 per 1,000 gallons.

From 2014 it was possible with the funding from the covenants and later the structural subsidy to re­duce the price of water to a certain extent. Currently the price of water, includ­ing trucking expenses and subsidy, varies between $80 and $115 per truckload of 1,000 gallons.

Above ground

The pipeline is partly placed above ground, where it will be attached with clamps to the outside of the wall along the road. This is currently done for the pipeline to Windwardside. Placing part of the pipeline above ground was neces­sary to reduce the risk of damage to the fibre-optic cable that runs through the shoulders of the main road. At locations where build­ings were nearby or where the road already had to be trenched for other purpos­es, the pipeline was placed underground.

A sturdy, low maintenance high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe is used for the entire transport system. Water temperature has proven to stay low in these pipes, making it possible to keep them above ground. The water temperature in the pipeline will be regu­larly monitored.

According to Zagers, this project was a good example of how to make basic needs more affordable.

“The Ministry of l&W has been very supportive throughout the years in making this project a suc­cess. Thanks to a good co­operation and the flexible approach of counterparts at I&W, it was possible to make one of the basic needs on the island more afford­able. l&W continues to be very flexible and supportive with Saba throughout this process to make this proj­ect and others a reality,” he stated.

The public entity hopes this can be seen as an ex­ample project of the Dutch Government, not just for the fact that the price of water will be significantly reduced, but also because it shows that when there is mutual trust between the local administration and the Ministry it becomes easier to accomplish com­mon goals, Zagers noted.

Even though the wa­ter price may have been sharply reduced, there is still much to do to solve the poverty issues on Saba. “The cost of living is high. High costs of basic needs like food, electricity and Internet are a heavy bur­den on our population. If we want to address the poverty problems we need an integrated approach to improve the standard of liv­ing for the people. This wa­ter project is by no means the end solution but it is a start,” he said.

The Daily Herald.

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