New water pipeline inaugurated in Saba

~ Water transport system to be further expanded ~

SABA/THE HAGUE–Saba Commissioner Bruce Zagers performed the official opening of the new water transport system from Fort Bay Harbour to The Bottom on Tuesday. The new waterline, which was built last year, will significantly reduce the water price to US $60 per 1,000 gallons with the same rate applying to all parts of the island.

A visiting delegation that included Dutch Minister of Justice and Security Ferd Grapperhaus and State Secretary of Home Affairs and Kingdom Relations Raymond Knops attended Tuesday’s ceremony, as well as several Government officials and representatives of the companies that were involved in the planning and construction.

Grapperhaus and Knops performed the symbolic inauguration by turning the valve of the waterline in The Bottom. Prior to that symbolic inauguration, Zagers gave a summary of the project. After the official opening, a water truck was filled.

The milestone was the result of a multi-year cooperation with the Dutch Ministry of Infrastructure and Water Management (I&W), formerly Infrastructure and Environment (I&M). In 2014, Saba signed the first covenant with I&M to start a water project to solve the problems that faced the island, both in quantity and quality.

The agreement with the Ministry focussed on building a pipeline for cost-efficient transport, creating additional cisterns for water storage and finding a solution for affordable drinking water. The Electricity and Drinking Water Law BES [Bonaire, St. Eustatius and Saba – Ed.], which became effective in June 2016, was a driving factor behind this development, as well as the clear need expressed by the public entity Saba to ensure the provision of more affordable water, explained Zagers.

A second covenant was signed in 2015 which further supported the initiatives of the first agreement. In 2016, Saba started receiving a structural subsidy from the Ministry to reduce the cost of water on the island based on the Electricity and Drinking Water Law BES.

With the incidental funding and the structural subsidy from the Netherlands, Saba was able to carry out a number of projects, including the pipeline from Fort Bay to the cisterns in The Range in The Bottom, with three pump-houses.

Other projects were: two cisterns on Fort Bay Road with a holding capacity of 60,000 gallons each, three cisterns at the Windwardside parking lot with a holding capacity of 40,000 gallons each, a cistern at Lollipops in St. Johns with a holding capacity of 20,000 gallons, and a filling station in The Bottom behind the Government Administration Building.

Another project is the pipeline to Windwardside, which will be commissioned soon and should be completed this year, Zagers announced. The pipeline in Windwardside will end at the big parking lot where a filling station will be built. This pipeline will also extend to some larger water consumers, like hotels, near the pipeline. Once the pipeline to Windwardside is completed, it will continue to Zion’s Hill by the church. The pipe will also extend to the lower St. Johns area by the school.

A bottling plant will be built to solve the quality issue. “With this bottling plant, we can offer affordable and quality drinking water,” said Zagers, who clarified that Vitens Evides International (VEI) was advising on the water plant to ensure that the quality standards prescribed in the law are met.

A bidding process to find a supplier for the waterline started last year and was supervised by water consultancy company VEI which has been supporting Saba with the water project for several years. VEI has advised on the project’s financial feasibility and the technical designs of the pipeline system, and has been involved in the commissioning and maintenance trainings after installation of the pumps.

AquaSab won the bid for the water project based on several criteria: water quality 30 per cent, constant availability of water 10 per cent, continuity of water supply 20 per cent and price 40 per cent.

Cost reduction

“Throughout the process the public entity has made it very clear that the main goal of this new form of water supply is to reduce the cost of water for the citizens of Saba. Therefore, price was the most important criterion in the bidding process,” explained Zagers.

VEI carried out independent water tests at the two reverse-osmosis (RO) plants on the island and reviewed the technical aspects of both plants to make sure a well-informed decision could be made with regard to quality, availability and continuity of supply.

VEI also provided its expert advice on the submitted proposals in the bidding process. This advice showed that differences in water quality, availability and continuity of supply were very minimal, which resulted in price being the decisive factor for the winning bid.

Agreements were made recently with truckers for maximum trucking prices per 1,000-gallon truckloads to anywhere on the island. With the pipeline system, the water supply contract and the agreement with the truckers, the water price can now be reduced to $60 per 1,000 gallons. There is no longer a differentiation based on location. The $60 is a maximum amount; truckers can charge less per load, but not more.

The new maximum price is only valid for water purchased from the Government water system. To make a water price of $60 possible while the project is still ongoing, the Saba Government decided to temporarily increase the subsidy provided for transport cost until all filling stations are operational.

Before this project started, water prices were between $110 and $175 per 1,000 gallons.

From 2014 it was possible with the funding from the covenants and later the structural subsidy to reduce the price of water to a certain extent. Currently the price of water, including trucking expenses and subsidy, varies between $80 and $115 per truckload of 1,000 gallons.

Above ground

The pipeline is partly placed aboveground, where it will be attached with clamps to the outside of the wall along the road. This is currently done for the pipeline to Windwardside. Placing part of the pipeline aboveground was necessary to reduce the risk of damage to the fibre-optic cable that runs through the shoulders of the main road. At locations where buildings were nearby or where the road already had to be trenched for other purposes, the pipeline was placed underground.

A sturdy, low maintenance high-density polyethylene (HDPE) pipe is used for the entire transport system. Water temperature has proven to stay low in these pipes, making it possible to keep them aboveground. The water temperature in the pipeline will be regularly monitored.

According to Zagers, this project was a good example of how to make basic needs more affordable.

“The Ministry of I&W has been very supportive throughout the years in making this project a success. Thanks to a good cooperation and the flexible approach of counterparts at I&W, it was possible to make one of the basic needs on the island more affordable. I&W continues to be very flexible and supportive with Saba throughout this process to make this project and others a reality,” he stated.

The public entity hopes this can be seen as an example project of the Dutch Government, not just for the fact that the price of water will be significantly reduced, but also because it shows that when there is mutual trust between the local administration and the Ministry it becomes easier to accomplish common goals, Zagers noted.

Even though the water price may have been sharply reduced, there is still much to do to solve the poverty issues on Saba. “The cost of living is high. High costs of basic needs like food, electricity and Internet are a heavy burden on our population. If we want to address the poverty problems we need an integrated approach to improve the standard of living for the people. This water project is by no means the end solution but it is a start,” he said.

Source: The Daily Herald