Sithamperepilli Pathmanathan doesn't like cutting off water service to Dominica's capital of Roseau. But as chief engineer for Dominica Water and Sewerage Company (DOWASCO), he is often forced to do just that — disrupting service to 25,000 people and affecting schools, the hospital, residences, and businesses.
During and after heavy rains, mud and debris often accumulate around the only intake to the water system, clogging it or turning tap water a murky brown. Disruptions to service are frequent, particularly during hurricane season, and can last up to three days.
But with the help of USAID's disaster preparedness benchmarking tool, Pathmanathan identified several ways DOWASCO could reduce risk to the system. The tool was developed by the Caribbean Open Trade Support Program, a USAID-funded project that worked with the Organization of Eastern Caribbean States to mitigate key regional impediments to open trade, improve market access for member countries, and protect national assets and investments through natural disaster preparedness and biodiversity conservation. The tool helps public officials and businesses identify and quantify the risks posed by natural hazards, to promote more informed planning decisions for sustainable development.
Armed with a more complete understanding of natural risks in the area, DOWASCO undertook a $75,000 geo-technical study, financed by USAID, to find the best location for a new intake to Roseau's water system.
"This will give us some guidelines on reducing the risks posed by landslides and heavy rains," said Pathmanathan.
With the risk assessment and geo-technical study, USAID helped DOWASCO take key initial steps toward a long-awaited comprehensive overhaul of Dominica's water system. A new catchment in a safer location drastically reduces the frequency of disruptions and improves water quality.
Pathmanathan was emphatic about the significance of these developments for the people of Roseau and the surrounding areas. "For consumers, this means that there will always be water in the tap, every time."