Basil Read offers water truck – but it’s too big for roads

A giant water carrier from St Helena’s airport site has been put on standby to help if the island’s domestic supply has to be switched off, as drought continues.

But the vehicle is legally too big for the narrow and winding roads.

Construction firm Basil Read has offered the loan one of its two bowsers, which can each carry 20 cubic metres of water – roughly five percent of the daily consumption in the affected communities around Half Tree Hollow.

Water engineer Martin Squibbs said: “It exceeds the weight limit on the roads so it needs special permission to operate.

“We have to consider the roads and the state of the roads. We have to consider the route that we might take. We have to consider where we might get the water from, how many loads we can safely deliver in a day. We are doing all that.”

Chief of Police Peter Coll added: “There are some logistical problems – it could not be used on Ladder Hill. It is just too big bulky and dangerous to drive it up Ladder Hill. It is still there as an option.”

He said thought had to be given to the number of times it could make the trip to the affected areas, and how long it would take to fill and empty.

It might not be enough to meet the daily demand for water in the affected areas – Half Tree Hollow, Cowpath, Ladder Hill, Red Hill, Sapper Way, New Ground, Clay Gut, Pounceys, Kunjie Field, Scotland, Plantation, Cleughs Plain, Rosemary Plain, Francis Plain, Crack Plain and Guinea Grass.

But the emergency committee set up to plan for a potential mains shut-down has tracked down a number of tanks that could be loaded on to vehicles to transport water from parts of the island that have more water.

At Wednesday’s news conference on the crisis, Martin said: “Two days ago we were able to secure four tanks across the Red Hill area. Now we are talking something like 30 tanks.

“So we have found tanks that we didn’t know existed. You can say what you like about that and that’s fine, but in future we will have a record of that. This effort will not be wasted. The information will be stored.”

But he told one story that suggested lessons had not been learned after past water shortages.

He said: “When I first came to the island we had a bowser on a truck standing by and waiting to go.

“That bowser was taken out of service because it was a 1950s Bedford truck for altogether the right reasons, I’m sure but it left us with a shortage of tankerage to move water.

“So now we have got to think again. We have got some tanks we can put on vehicles, we can ask Basil Read to help us out – but they have got a job to do as well and they are working within time constraints.”

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