Despite the Water and Sewerage Company’s (WASCO) tagline “water is life” there is a more popular recurring theme among many Saint Lucians. “No running water” or “WASCO encore,” are the prevailing words from many each time they open their taps. Instead of the life preserving water, air is coughed out of the tap as if gasping to be somehow resucitated. For some this lasts for days, others weeks. However for many, the situation can be prolonged for months, years even in some communities. Imagine not having regular drinking water, far less enough water to engage in such triviality as an ice-bucket challenge.
One such community is Resina, a part of Garrand, Babonneau. There we found Cynthia James who is among a long list of frustrated residents of the community who have not seen a constant flow of water for months. James told the STAR last week that the area has not had pipe borne water for the past six months. She says that she and her neighbours have reported the problem to WASCO several times, but the issue has not been addressed. Sounds familiar?
In James’ case, living on the hillside of her commmunity as picturesque as it is, appears to be compounding the problem. “Persons who live on road level get water, but we live on the hill and don’t get any. I have to go to the house by the road to get some water and carry it back up the hill to my home,” James says.
According to the 52 year-old mother she has called WASCO and gone to their office many times to report the issue to no avail. She relates that her water supply has been interrupted from the month of March but she however continues to receive water bills.
“I keep asking why I have to pay for water if I am not getting any in my pipe. But according to WASCO, I am paying for the meter. So I asked them to come for their meter because I’m not getting water; I don’t need it,” James continued.
The STAR inquired with WASCO on this matter, which has irritated many a customer. One customer service representative told us that a customer pays EC$24.42 for water used within the range of 0-2000 gallons. “So in essence, this applies to persons who are not receiving water in their taps and also those who are overseas; they pay the same fee of $24.42 for having a meter,” we were told.
Still, this explanation does not satisfy James, who simply wants the service and commodity which she is paying for which is a regular supply of water through her taps. With no change in her situation she says that she has asked WASCO to disconnect her because she isn’t willing to pay for water if she isn’t getting any.
“I told them that I would save the money that they are charging me every month and when they are ready to give me water I will use it to pay the reconnection fee. I have paid two bills with charges totaling for two months each at $48.84. Last week I got another bill. But until I get water I am not paying this latest one.”
Recently when James got tired of bothering her neighbours near the main road for water, she had to resort to taking a bus and going over to her son in Rosehill, Castries with her water containers to source drinking water and to wash her clothes. The worst part of the ordeal is that she did this while in pain; afflicted by the chikungunya virus. “It was not easy having to carry water with all that pain in your joints,” she says.
Last year, WASCO increased water tariffs by 66.15 percent, which, according to the company, would help it get over the expenses that it had incurred during the drought of 2009/2010 and to recuperate from the losses suffered at the hands of hurricane Tomas in late October of 2010. The increase was also supposed to help the company improve its water supply and infrastructure. Part of this infrastructure includes the John Compton Dam at Roseau which since it was built has accumulated a high level of siltation. Though several recomendations have been made over the years about the desilting of the dam, none of them has been implemented thus far. In the meantime the facility continues to operate way below maximum capacity.
It would seem that the formula of water-hikes which were supposed to help fill up WASCO coffers resulting in water taps across the island being filled with water has not materialized. Either this process is a very slow one or some communities are not as high up on WASCO’s priority list. Garrand seems to be one of them.