Import tax on water is lifted as ship tops up emergency supply

St Helena drought montage plus word 920Customs duty has been lifted on imports of bottled water and water containers into St Helena as the island authorities battle the effects of the 2013 drought.

Traders are being told they must not pocket any of the money saved on buying in water.

Four pallets of bottled water have been donated to the emergency effort from stocks aboard the RMS St Helena, the government has revealed.

A “silver command” control room has now been set up, ready to operate around the clock if a shut-down of the supply is ordered for homes in the most populated part of the island, around Half Tree Hollow.

The tariff waiver was announced in a St Helena Government statement on Friday 31 May 2013. It said:

“Following public representations, the Acting Governor in Council agreed that from 30 May 2013, no customs duty would be payable on such imports from that date.

“We wish to see the full 20% reduction passed on to customers. The price of water will be closely monitored by SHG.

“This exemption is for a temporary period, until drought concerns are lifted, and will be assessed by Customs on a ship-by-ship basis.”

The statement also gave an update on the drought situation.

“Stored water levels remain exceptionally low,” it said. “Consumption from the Red Hill treatment plant has reduced slightly (at 232 cubic metres today, compared with an average of roughly 400 cubic metres) and this is positive – we thank the public for stretching this precious resource. 

“But stored levels still only give us about six days’ supply.

“Rainfall over the past few days has not raised levels of stored water in any of the Harpers reservoirs [which serve the Red Hill plant].

“This weekend, we urge residents served by the Red Hill treatment plant to do all they can to use less water.  A leaflet, Your Top Ten Tips to Saving Water, is now available in local shops.”

The statement said water tanks would be set up around affected areas and in Jamestown if the mains supply had to be shut down. It said:

“Specific sites for public water tanks are being identified and tanks deployed. CPG has been discussing this and other matters with third parties, including merchants, retailers, Faith groups and Basil Read.

“Residents will no doubt be thinking of family and friends who might be vulnerable and may need help.

“Any reports of water wastage will be investigated by the police.

“Residents not served by the Red Hill treatment plant may use water for agriculture if they are growing on a large scale for commercial purposes.

“The used of fresh water on a small scale, such as on household vegetable patches, is prohibited throughout the island.”

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