St Helena could have to wait three months for the rain that it needs to end its severe water shortage.
This week the most populated parts of the island, around Half Tree Hollow, had only six days’ supply left. Modest rainfall on Tuesday and Wednesday nights meant the island would get through the weekend without the supply being shut down.
Police had made plans to set up a command centre to get water to people if the supply has to be cut in areas served by the Red Hill treatment works – which could still happen next week.
At the daily press briefing on Thursday (30 May 2013), water engineer Martin Squibbs said: “We’ve had the weather forecast from Ascension Island, which I think is as good as we are going to get here in the middle of the South Atlantic ocean.
“The probability for rainfall isn’t positive for the next three months so we have got to keep on this. There’s no quick solution.
“The probability is that it’s not going to rain tomorrow – it might – so we are in this for the long haul.”
He said islanders could have to “stretch this out until we get some meaningful rain.”
Rainfall in the week was enough to stop levels dropping, but no more.
He said: “It’s not what I call meaningful, and it’s not going to solve the problem, but every day we can just stretch out the storage is another day we have won, so I am quite positive.”
On Tuesday, he praised people for cutting down on their water use, but said: “People are now understanding what we are saying here. Reduce consumption or we will run out.
“We need the rains to come. There’s no indication that they will. And we now need to take steps to secure our supplies for the safety of consumers.”
Overflowing reservoir at Levelwood ‘is not waste’
Martin Squibbs has rejected complaints that water is overspilling from a reservoir at Levelwood while other parts of the island are starved of water.
St Helena’s mountainous terrain and maritime climate mean some parts of the island have a plentiful flow, even though other places only four or five miles away are in a drought.
At Thursday’s briefing on the crisis, Martin said: “It was mentioned to me that there was water wasted at Levelwood, and true enough, our reservoir at Levelwood overflows.
“I don’t class that as wasted water. I would refute that. We have a surplus of water at Levelwood and we are looking at ways we can get that back to Red Hill.
“It might be possible to do it. If it is, we will do it. If it’s not, because we don’t have the materials or the pipelines or whatever, then we will have to continue with that surplus water, but it’s in our long term plan.
“We are dealing with the here and now. So Red Hill is precariously low on water but not there yet – we have not hit the panic button.
“We have not done anything more than declare a contingency: we are very short of water and we need to restrain our use of water.”