Govt. to save NAf.12 million for supply of public drinking water

PHILIPSBURG–Public Health Minister Emil Lee announced on Wednesday that negotiations for the amendment of the contracts for the supply of public drinking water produced by Seven Seas Water have been concluded and signed off with a positive and desirable savings of NAf. 4 million annually for a period of three years.

As Minister of Public Health, Lee is responsible for the public supply of drinking water. Negotiations took place together with the Ministry of Public Housing, Spatial Planning, Environment and Infrastructure VROMI, which is responsible for the distribution of drinking water, and the Ministry of Finance.

“Prior to Hurricane Irma, the country was already in a situation where the water being produced was more than the actual consumption capacity. As a result, the generated loss in 2016 was NAf. 1.1 million.

“We took the time to examine the current contract with Seven Seas. It is a ‘take or pays’ contract, meaning that whether the country takes the water or not, by agreement the country is obligated to pay for the contracted production of water. And that loss, in terms of water that is paid for but consumed, was projected to be about 4.6 million guilders annually,” said Lee.

Based on an agreement between Government and Seven Seas Water that was signed in 2012, the amount of water to be made available was raised from 15,500m3 per day to 18,500m3 per day as per 2016.

The amendments consist of Government reverting to the pre-2016 volume of 15,500m3 daily in exchange for the extension of the agreement, with the possibility to extend for two more years thereafter.

“That gives us some breathing room in terms of cash flow. It allows us to get the hotel plants back in operation and it allows us to finalise discussions and negotiations with the French side, with the Harbour and the cruise lines as possible clients to sell water to,” Lee said.

He also mentioned that it is the utilities company GEBE’s desire to independently produce drinking water for the country. The contract with Seven Seas Water has provisions that allow the possibility for the country to negotiate an early buyout of the contract.

The negotiated amendments to the contract include the expansion of the applicant criteria of the scholarship funds of the Desalination Resource Development Programme (DRDP), which is part of the water contract with Seven Seas Water. There is currently US $240,000 in the scholarship fund, which allows students to specialise in water engineering.

Lee said, “We have broadened the terms that allow a broader participation of who can access the scholarship funds with the understanding that what we are trying to do is: we are trying to train individuals in water production in St. Maarten, equipping the country to be able to take over the water production on its own in the future.”

Source: The Daily Herald