Pictures that reveal the scale of St Helena water crisis

Harper's One reservoir: not leaking any more. Picture by Martin Squibbs

Harper’s One reservoir: not leaking any more. Picture by Martin Squibbs

It’s one way to cure a leaking reservoir: simply run out of water. 

Three pictures taken by Martin Squibbs bring home the scale of St Helena’s drought crisis the way no words could. 

One shows Harper’s One reservoir, high in the hills above Jamestown – empty but for a thin layer of reddish sludge.

Harper's Earth Dam, June 2013, by Martin Squibbs

Harper’s Earth Dam, June 2013, by Martin Squibbs

It’s meant to supply the Redhill treatment plant, which in turn pumps water into the taps of every home in 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.

There is water at Scott’s Mill, some of it coming from springs and upland streams, and some of it from bowsers and tanks that have been trundling back and forth from Jamestown, where a steady flow has run down the valley throughout the 2013 drought.

For Martin and colleagues at the newly created Connect St Helena – which only took over the water supply in April 2013 – the drought has been an opportunity to repair and clean out the reservoirs.

At a briefing on Monday (3 June 2013), he said: “We have been concentrating up to now on securing the water supply. We did take the opportunity of maintaining the Harper’s Earth dam and we have taken out as much sediment and infestation as we can there.

Water is being pumped and bowsered to Scott's Mill reservoir. Picture by Martin Squibbs

Water is being pumped and bowsered to Scott’s Mill reservoir. Picture by Martin Squibbs

“Harper’s Three needs repairing. We can do that.

“Harper’s One is leaking. We have known about that for some years now. It’s very difficult to repair that leak because it comes from the surrounds of the embankment there.

“What we have done is captured that water and directed it to Scott’s Mill reservoir.

“Leakage from pipelines exits also. It’s a question of degree and how much resource we put into that.”

At an earlier briefing, on 31 May 2013, Martin said: “When I came here we were cleaning out reservoirs that had never been cleaned before, because the story was, ‘What do we do with the fish?’

“I said I don’t care: I want that reservoir cleaned out.

“There was fish droppings, there was leaves rotting, there was all kinds of problems.”

He told the story to show that storing water in open “surface” reservoirs was not ideal.

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