Developing Regional Standard Operating Procedures for the Water Sector in the Caribbean
Water is an extremely precious resource for people all over the world. This is even more so in the Caribbean, where it is considered that “water is life”. Water is indeed an important resource across all key sectors of the region’s economy – tourism, agriculture, health, education, building construction, and manufacturing.
Yet with climate change, the level of threat on the water sector is palpable. Given the volcanic nature of most islands of the Caribbean, the main source of water is from rainfall, captured through harvesting or from surface runoff. However year after year, the consistency of this water source fluctuates, because of rainfall variability. This makes the water situation in the Caribbean dire. According to predictions for drought in the Caribbean compiled and updated by the Caribbean Climate Outlook Forum (CARICOF) in March 2021, more than half of CARIFORUM states are at risk of either short term drought conditions by May 2021, or long-term drought conditions by June 2021. According to the report, by the end of May 2021, many of these Caribbean countries “may experience significantly reduced water levels in large reservoirs, rivers and ground water”. (Drs Cedric J. Van Meerbeeck and Teddy Allen, CIMH) .
A pivotal focus of the Intra-ACP, GCCA+ Programme being implemented in CARIFORUM countries by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), is to build resilience in the water sector, particularly strengthening water infrastructure to make them more robust to withstand disaster occurrences brought about by climate change. All countries of the Caribbean remain vulnerable to climate change, placing governments in a perpetual spin of planning and recovery. This situation worsens their abilities to sustain their already stressed economies. The Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH), which is collaborating with the CCCCC on the Intra-ACP, GCCA+ Programme, supports the region’s move to build climate resilience by adapting comprehensive and integrated water management strategies. Indeed, according to its predictions on Caribbean climate outlook, there is an 80% chance that the Caribbean will face increased droughts in coming years.
To advance activities to prepare Standard Operating Procedures (SOPs) for the water sector in the CARIFORUM member states, the CCCCC hosted a virtual pre-development consultative workshop, on March 3, 2021, under the theme, “Developing Regional Standard Operating Procedures for Climate Resilient Water Infrastructure in the Caribbean”.
This workshop forms part of the activities of the Intra-ACP GCCA+ Programme in The Caribbean: Enhancing Climate Resilience in CARIFORUM Countries Project. The objective thereof was to engage stakeholders in a dialogue about the importance of standardising procedures to build climate resilience of water infrastructure in the Caribbean. During the virtual conversation, participants contributed to the development of the key aspects for the SOPs document. They also identified key adaptative protocols and procedures that support Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) and climate resiliency in the water sector.
Regional stakeholders, CARIFORUM countries’ water utilities and regional development banks participated in the exercise with presentations and remarks made by the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association (CWWA), the Caribbean Water and Sewerage Association Inc. (CAWASA), the Global Water Partnership Caribbean (GWP-C), SOFRECO, and the CCCCC.
Based on contribution from Tecla Fontenard and Michele Lopez, CCCCC
 Dr Cedric J. Van Meerbeeck and Dr Teddy Allen are two climatologists at the Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology (CIMH)