St Helena Online

Tag: climate

Water crisis worsens as consumption goes up

Click the pic for more drought stories
Click the pic for more drought stories

The water shortage on St Helena has grown more serious – and it appears some householders are losing the resolve to use less of it.

Reservoir levels have begun to go down in the worst affected area, above Half Tree Hollow, after a major operation to transport water from other parts of the island.

That means the island may not have enough stored water to cope when the dry season begins in September or October – potentially stretching into March.

A government bulletin issued on 16 July 2013 said:

“The continued unseasonably dry weather on St Helena means that the water situation in affected areas remains serious.

“The headline message this week is that following the sunny weather and an increase in water consumption in the Redhill distribution zone over the weekend, we are starting to draw down on our supplies in the Redhill system.

“This means we are slowly losing stored water. Consumption in the Redhill zone in June was an average of approximately 260 cubic metres per day.  In July so far, it is at an average of about 280 cubic metres per day, and continues to creep up

“As a consequence of this, the Harpers 2 (Earth Dam) is now being used to feed Scotts Mill reservoir, which now holds just 13 days’ supply.

“This serves as a reminder to the public that the situation in the affected areas remains serious.  As a result of increased consumption, we are now drawing down on the reserves that we were previously building up.

“Residents served by the Redhill distribution plant are once again urged to continue to lower their water consumption. The island as a whole is reminded that the hosepipe ban is still in force.

“We must all maintain our efforts to reduce domestic water consumption wherever possible and stretch this resource, until we return to normal rainfall patterns.

Piping of additional water to the Scotts Mill reservoir continues to be necessary, until we receive significant rainfall.

“The laying of pipework and preparatory work for the pump, to transfer water from Levelwood into the Hutts Gate system, continues.

“The latest weather forecast indicates a 10-20% likelihood of rain over the next three days, followed by drier weather later this week.”

READ more drought stories here.

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Drought ‘remains critical’ – with little rain expected

Click the pic for more drought stories
Click the pic for more drought stories

St Helena’s drought shows no sign of easing, with the reservoirs serving the most populated island filling too slowly for restrictions to be lifted. It follows months of hot weather and little rain.

One senior source told St Helena Online: “The sun has emerged again and the forecast is 0% chance of precipitation for the foreseeable.”

A government statement, issued on 2 July 2013, said: “The continued dry weather on St Helena has meant that the water situation in affected areas remains critical.

“Due to the irregular rainfall we are currently experiencing, our reservoirs are filling slower than required and, although stored water levels at Redhill have slightly extended to around 14 days of supply, water levels remain exceptionally low.

“Only the piping of additional water to Redhill is maintaining our volumes.

“Pumping from Hutts Gate, via Grapevine Gut, to Scotts Mill reservoir continues this week – supplying roughly a day’s consumption (at the reduced level) for each day’s pumping.

“Over the weekend, 900 cubic metres of water was pumped from the Longwood area to Redhill.

“The supply from Grapevine Gut is now very low and pumping is being managed to balance the demand on the Hutts Gate reservoir for both the Hutts Gate and Longwood supply area and the Redhill zone.

“Preparatory work, including vegetation clearance, to pump water from Levelwood into the Hutts Gate system has also started – in advance of pipe and pump deliveries on the RMS St Helena.

“Residents served by the Redhill distribution plant are once again thanked for their continued reduced consumption and are urged to continue to lower their consumption.

“The island as a whole is reminded that the hosepipe ban is still in force – every effort to reduce water consumption must continue in order to stretch the water supplies until we receive some substantial rainfall.

“Bowsering and pumping from reliable sources clearly has implications for the totality of St Helena’s water supplies. Water is ultimately a finite resource on this island and we thank all districts for reducing their water consumption.

“Connect Saint Helena Ltd continues to treat all leaks and burst pipes as a priority.”

READ MORE: 2013 drought stories

Homes face cut-off as water boss warns: ‘We need rain NOW’

Montage by Simon Pipe from an original image by Johnny Clingham
Montage by Simon Pipe from an original image by Johnny Clingham

The water shortage on parts of St Helena is now so grave that the supply to many homes may simply be cut off.

People in Half Tree Hollow and nearby areas have been warned: “This is serious. We need some substantial rainfall now.” 

Engineer Martin Squibbs told Saint FM listeners: We will just run out of water quite soon. If we have no water, we can’t distribute water.

“We have had some rain but it’s not made any difference at all – so too little, then the hot sun comes out and dries it all up again.

Drilling for water has taken place around the island
Drilling for water has taken place around the island

“We are now in a graver situation. We are starting to think maybe we will have to shut down the water treatment at Red Hill.”

Harper’s Earth Dam was completely empty, he said.

Workers have been desperately drilling bore holes to seek out new underground supplies. Two are producing water, but not enough to meet the needs of people in the most populated part of the island.

Other areas still have a healthy supply, including Levelwood and Jamestown. But Martin, the operations director for the newly privatised Connect St Helena, said transporting water from those places would not work: the demand was too great.

He said there were no plans to reduce consumption by cutting off the supply at night.

“If people know we are going to shut off the water overnight they will just fill up containers, and probably pour them down the drain in the morning,” he said. “So we are not going to do that.”

He praised residents who had heeded calls to cut down on useage – but his praise made it clear that some people have been selfish.

“Thanks to everyone for restraint now because I had been having reports of people using water to water their gardens – water we can’t really afford to use.”

He said the normal flow from the Red Hill plant was about 400 cubic metres per day, but only 335 cubic metres were sent out on 15 May 2013, showing residents had woken up to the crisis.

The crisis has come about after months of unusually low rainfall.

Reservoirs should have been close to full by Easter, but the Red Hill reservoir was at only 42% of its capacity. A “voluntary” hosepipe ban was imposed for Half Tree Hollow and the west of the island.

Heavy rain over Easter failed to make a difference because it was absorbed by the parched ground.

Streams were drying up in Sandy Bay, but it was possible to move water around in by vehicle because the quantities involved were small. That continues.

The implications for St Helena’s anticipated tourism boom are not clear. Shelco, the company that wants to build an eco resort at Broad Bottom, has talked of re-planting the island’s lost cloud forest to encourage higher rainfall – adding to the existing efforts of the St Helena National Trust.

Martin said: “Let’s not be doom and gloom here. We are drilling for water. We have had some success, we’ve had some failures. 

“We have drilled at Molly’s Gut, which is a bit far away but possibly we could move water from Molly’s Gut.

“We have drilled opposite Philip John’s place on the road to Scotland. We tried to pump water there but the pump broke down last week.

“We didn’t hit water until we were about 30 metres down, which is quite a distance, but then we thought we could achieve about 100 cm a day. 

“If we can raise some water from the ground we can extend the life of our reservoirs.”

He said cutting off the supply could harm solar heaters – : “the panels on the roof that rely on water flowing through them to warm up and so on. If we get air in those water heaters it will cause a lot of problems so I want to avoid that.

“Householders now need to think about the implications. If we can’t get any rainfall, we are going to shut the water off. Be in no doubt about this.”

Westminster meeting: The water crisis has been raised in a private meeting at the Houses of Parliament this week. Concerns were also raised about democratic weaknesses, Freedom of Information issues, and lack of effective scrutiny of government spending. It was reported that no value-for-money reviews had been conducted on St Helena for several months because the island had been without a chief auditor.

Hosepipes banned as island dries out in the sun

A hosepipe ban has been imposed for parts of St Helena because water supplies have dwindled in a long spell of dry weather.

The ban affects people whose water comes from the Red Hill treatment works, and those in Sandy Bay who are supplied from Wranghams and Perkins Gut. People who receive an irrigation supply from Harpers are also barred from using hosepipes or sprinklers.

In a statement, the Water Division asked people to use water only for basic domestic needs. It thanked users for their patience.

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