Modernized system keeps water flowing

Reverseosmosis technologies make water available to residents and businesses on all the inhabited islands.

 

For a nation surrounded by water, ensuring a safe and reliable source of the drinkable kind hasn’t always been an easy operation in the Turks and Caicos Islands.

Residents of many islands in the two chains historically relied on cisterns and other catchment devices for potable water. North and Middle Caicos have traditionally benefited from significant groundwater reserves as well.

Those pre-20th century water resources helped shape life in the Turks and Caicos, but as reverseosmosis technologies began offering desalination on an industrial scale, the first modern water and sewerage systems began appearing on Grand Turk. This technology also enabled modern development on other islands, and the nation’s water supply evolved as a patchwork of sources and management systems.

TCIG manages water supplies on Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay.

In recent years, the government has worked to understand the needs of its water and sewerage infrastructure – although recession-era revenues have limited its options in addressing those needs.

With government-run systems on Grand Turk, South Caicos and Salt Cay all suffering from obsolete infrastructure, TCIG has generally pursued a strategy of divestment where possible. The interim government’s 2012 development strategy acknowledged that privately run water systems “are generally operating efficiently and meeting guidelines set out in the Water and Sewerage Ordinance and in accordance with the regulatory framework,” and expressed an interest in regulating, rather than producing, the nation’s water.

In June 2012, TCIG sold its 46 percent share of the Provo Water Company to the system’s owner, HAB Group, for $7.5 million.

“Government has a duty to ensure that all of its assets are used to create the best value for the taxpayer,” said Patrick Boyle, then Chief Executive, Turks and Caicos Islands Government. “It is better to realize these monies and put them to good use than for our investment to remain idle. Further, the Government can now better assume its proper role, ensuring consumer rights are protected rather than attempting to increase profits to maximize its return.” Provo Water Company produces enough reverseosmosis water to exceed demand of 1.5 million U.S. gallons a day, and runs more than 1,000 quality tests per month. PWC delivers most of its water via pipeline, but trucks supply to outlets in areas beyond the network.

Approximately 1.5 million gallons of water are consumed daily by Providenciales customers.

2012 TCIG Development Strategy

Developers on the islands of Dellis Cay, Ambergris Cay, West Caicos and Parrot Cay all built their own private plant and pipeline networks.

The cabinet has since agreed to fund an emergency replacement to Salt Cay’s RO plant. Salt Cay is served by one RO plant with a capacity of 8,000 gallons per day. This plant was installed in the early 1970s. Water produced, is stored in an adjacent storage tank and then transferred to other storage tanks at various points on the island where customers will go and purchase water. Water is sold at the various issue points at $0.03 per gallon. There are no individual service connections.

Of the budgeted $1.3 million, almost $1 million is earmarked for a new RO water production plant on Grand Turk, part of a contract that will also repair and operate the older plants as backups to the new one. At 300,000 gallons a day, the new plant will more than double the output of its predecessors.

The improvements could make the Grand Turk system a more salable property. But government research has also concluded that the current public subsidy for water sold by the gallon in the three TCIG-run systems acts as a barrier to privatization.

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