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Grenada Showcases climate change adaptation at Regional Conference

This year, Trinidad is host to the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre’s International Conference on Climate Change for the Caribbean between 9th to 12th October in Port of Spain. The conference is held under the theme “Integrating Climate Variability and Change Information into Adaptation and Mitigation Actions in the Caribbean Region” and Grenada is represented by a delegation to present its flagship adaption project: Integrated Climate Change Adaptation Strategies (ICCAS).

The project was launched in 2013 as a partnership between the Grenadian and the German governments and is designed to provide a holistic approach to climate change adaptation in the State of Grenada. The overall aim of the ICCAS Program is to increase resilience of vulnerable communities and ecosystems to climate change risks. The project uses a comprehensive, integrated approach for analysing and implementing adaptation strategies. This model, it is hoped, can serve as a role model for other countries in the region.

The project is divided in several components to pilot adaptation strategies that should be scaled up to larger projects and that prepares Grenada to receive grants for larger projects. It also aimed to support the local communities to implement projects to adapt to immediate climate change challenges and raise the awareness of Grenadians about climate change.

In order to prepare Grenada’s institutions to climate change, ICCAS supported the country in the development of its National Adaptation Plan and helped to integrate climate change considerations into policies and development plans. This, in turn, was the basis for preparing the country to be eligible to receive climate finance for large adaption and mitigation projects. Furthermore, the project went on to train experts to support Grenada’s access to climate finance and to help set up a National Designated Authority that is approved to receive funds from the Green Climate Fund (GCF). The GCF is a multilateral fund that was set up to finance large projects to support climate change adaptation and mitigation, especially in countries that are most vulnerable such as small island developing states.

To improve resources planning and management, the ICCAS approach has been to pilot best practices and to build capacity of key actors in the local communities so that they can act as knowledge multipliers. The project targeted 3 areas of action: Coastal Zone Management, Water Management and Climate Smart Agriculture.

On coastal zone management, ICCAS supported the development of an Integrated Coastal Zone Policy and provided beach profiling equipment to the Environment Division. It also established a community lead mangrove restoration project under which 1900 mangrove seedling were replanted a the community members were trained to produce mangrove honey, to sustainably harvest the mangrove for charcoal and a board walk and bird watching platform was built to facilitate the development of an eco-tourism destination to the area.

On water management, a community rain water harvesting system was built in partnership with the National Water and Sewerage Authority. It consist of a 15,000 square foot catchment area and a 50,000 gallon concrete water tank to deliver pipe water to the community of Blaize, which use to have to rely on collecting water from a stream 1 ½ miles away. The ICCAS project also mapped a total of 45 non-commercial water sources that can be accessed by the population in case of  breakdown of the pipe water system, for instance after a hurricane. In addition communities throughout Grenada benefitted from rain water harvesting tanks and cisterns increasing Grenada’s water storage capacity to 230,000 gallons.

On climate smart agriculture (CSA), the project trained a total of 45 officers at the Ministry of Agriculture and CSA practices were integrated in the ministry’s work plan. ICCAS established a model farm implementing the different recommended practices to secure the future of the agriculture sector. A number of resilient farming practices and incentives were given to farmers to increase climate resilience. These include composting and vermi-culture bins and proper turning technique demonstration. In addition climate Smart technologies in solar power water pump and drip irrigation systems were introduce to schools farming systems.

Local communities, which are already suffering from the effects of climate change, were not left behind by the project. A 1.5 million USD Community Climate Change Adaptation Fund funded a total of 27 community lead projects around Grenada, Carriacou and Petite Martinique. These projects addressed issues affecting agriculture and water, public water storage, education and awareness, flood protection, ridge to reef management, recycling, as well as marine and coastal management.

Grenada also needed to raise the awareness of his citizens, especially the children, about climate change and environmental issues. The project lead a large national efforts, backed by 255,000 USD budget, to raise this awareness through radio and TV programme, national events such as football competition and walk, environment fair, school competitions and a wealth of other efforts, including social media and its own project website. It has also developed a climate change toolkit for teachers to start including climate change science into the schools’ after school programmes, as a first step to integrate the topic in the national curriculum. Two new climate change books targeting children between the ages of 5 – 7 were published through the ICCAS project. The climate kids’ adventure books are creating a platform for young children and teachers to discuss climate change issues. There is also an online version of these children books which can be found in this link (http://climatekids.gd/#books).

Soon entering in its last year to wrap up the project, the monitoring and evaluation of the results have already started and Grenada is eager to share its success and challenges with other countries in the region in order to contribute to the region’s learning curve on climate change adaptation solutions.

The ICCAS Program is implemented by the Government of Grenada, the United Nations Development Program (UNDP) and the Deutsche Gesellschaft fur InternationaleZusammenarbeit (GIZ). It was financed by the German Federal Ministry for the Environment, Nature Conservation, Building and Nuclear Safety (BMUM) under its International Climate Initiative (IKI) with an 8 million USD budget.

For further information please contact:

 

Government of Grenada:

Aria R. St.Louis

Head of Environment Division

Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

St. George’s, Grenada

Tel: +1-473-440-2708 x26841

Email: ariastlouis@gmail.com

  Deutsche Gesellschaft für Internationale Zusammenarbeit (GIZ) GmbH:

Dieter Rothenberger

Head of GIZ-ICCAS

Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

St. George’s, Grenada

Tel: + 1-473-534-8000

Email: dieter.rothenberger@giz.de

 

 

UNDP

Mr. Martin Barriteau

Project Coordinator

Ministry of Agriculture, Lands, Forestry, Fisheries and the Environment

St. George’s, Grenada

Tel: +1 (473) 440-2708 ext. 3027

Mobile:   +1(473) 4168980

Email: martin.barriteau@undp.org

Website: www.bb.undp.org

 

 

 

Regional Scientists To Present 1.5 Report at Caribbean Climate Change Conference

PRESS RELEASE – Port-of-Spain: October 9, 2017: When scientists and researchers meet in Trinidad at the International Climate Change Conference for the Caribbean this week, it will be in the aftermath of the devastation wrought in the region by successive monster storms in the current 2017 Hurricane Season.

The conference, which is being hosted by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC) in association with the European Union (EU) funded Global Climate Change Alliance Plus Initiative (GCCA+) runs from October 9 to 12. It brings together regional scientists to update regional stakeholders on the ongoing regional research in climate change, inform on actions being undertaken to build climate resilience across the region by regional and international organisations, and discuss issues related to climate finance and the science, policy and finance nexus.

Scientists will present the key findings of the 1.5 to Stay Alive research project for the Caribbean region, which was funded by the Caribbean Development Bank. This should offer more insight into the consequences of global warming exceeding a 1.5 degree Centigrade threshold and provide our regional climate change negotiators with a more robust science-based platform for further insisting at the forthcoming Conference of Parties (COP) at the United Nations Framework Convention of Climate Change (UNFCCC) that global mitigation efforts need to be scaled up so that global warming does not exceed this threshold.

The meeting is being held under the theme “Adaptation in Action” which CCCCC’s Deputy Executive Director and Science Advisor Dr. Ulric Trotz said because this best describes the focus of regional institutions and countries in the face of threats posed by Climate Change.

“The 2017 Hurricane Season shows us that we must be proactive in building resilience in the small nation states of the region. And while adaptation and mitigation are critical, climate financing is a much-needed lifeline if the region is to successfully pursue a low carbon climate resilient development pathway. We cannot survive unless we are able to build to withstand these super storms,” he said.

Climate negotiators and Inter-governmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) Focal Points from across the region are also in attendance.

Other sponsors include the Caribbean Development Bank (CDB), United Nations Development Programme Japan-Caribbean Climate Change Partnership (UNDP J-CCCP) and Food and Agriculture Organisation of the United Nations (FAO).

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The Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre coordinates the region’s response to climate change. Officially opened in August 2005, the Centre is the key node for information on climate change issues and the region’s response to managing and adapting to climate change. We maintain the Caribbean’s most extensive repository of information and data on climate change specific to the region, which in part enables us to provide climate change-related policy advice and guidelines to CARICOM member states through the CARICOM Secretariat. In this role, the Centre is recognized by the United Nations Framework Convention on Climate Change, the United Nations Environment Programme, and other international agencies as the focal point for climate change issues in the Caribbean. The Centre is also a United Nations Institute for Training and Research recognised Centre of Excellence, one of an elite few. Learn more about how we’re working to make the Caribbean more climate resilient by perusing The Implementation Plan.

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Caribbean Youth Ready to Lead on Climate Issues

Members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CEYN) clean debris from a river in Trinidad. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Members of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CEYN) clean debris from a river in Trinidad. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

At 24 years old, Stefan Knights has never been on the side of those who are sceptical about the reality and severity of climate change.

A Guyana native who moved to Trinidad in September 2013 to pursue his law degree at the Hugh Wooding Law School, Knights told IPS that his first-hand experience of extreme weather has strengthened his resolve to educate his peers about climate change “so that they do certain things that would reduce emissions.”

“Notwithstanding our minor contribution to this global problem we are taking a proactive approach, guided by the recognition of our vulnerability and the tremendous responsibility to safeguard the future of our people.” – Foreign Affairs Minister Winston Dookeran.

Knights recalled his first week in Trinidad, when he returned to his apartment to find “the television was floating, the refrigerator was floating and all my clothes were soaked” after intense rainfall which did not last more than an hour.

“When we have the floods, the droughts or even the hurricanes, water supply is affected, people lose jobs, people lose their houses and the corollary of that is that the right to water is affected, the right to housing, the right to employment and even sometimes the right to life,” Knights told IPS.

“I am a big advocate where human rights are concerned and I see climate change as having a significant impact on Caribbean people where human rights are concerned,” he said.

Knights laments that young people from the Caribbean and Latin America are not given adequate opportunities to participate in the major international meetings, several of which are held each year, to deal with climate change.

“These people are affected more than anybody else but when such meetings are held, in terms of youth representation, you find very few young people from these areas,” he said.

Youth climate activist Stefan Knights. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Youth climate activist Stefan Knights. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

 

“Also, the countries that are not independent within Latin America and the Caribbean, like Puerto Rico which is still a territory of the United States, Montserrat, the British and U.S. Virgin Islands, the voices of those people are not heard in those rooms because they are still colonies.”

Knights, who is also an active member of the Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN), said young people are ready to lead.

“They are taking the lead around the world in providing solutions to challenges in the field of sustainable development,” he explained.

“For instance, CYEN has been conducting research and educating society on integrated water resources management, focusing particularly on the linkages between climate change, biodiversity loss and unregulated waste disposal.”

CYEN has been formally recognised by the Global Water Partnership (GWP) as one of its Most Outstanding Partners in the Caribbean.

As recently as December 2014, several members of CYEN from across the Caribbean participated in a Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C) Media Workshop on Water Security and Climate Resilience held here.

CYEN has been actively involved in policy meetings on water resources management and has conducted practical community-based activities in collaboration with local authorities.

CYEN National Coordinator Rianna Gonzales told IPS that one way in which young people in Trinidad and Tobago are getting involved in helping to combat climate change and build resilience is through the Adopt a River (AAR) Programme, administered by the National Water and Sewerage Authority (WASA).

“This is an initiative to involve the community and corporate entities in the improvement of watersheds in Trinidad and Tobago in a sustainable, holistic and coordinated manner,” Gonzales said.

“The aim of the AAR programme is to build awareness on local watershed issues and to facilitate the participation of public and private sector entities in sustainable and holistic projects aimed at improving the status of rivers and watersheds in Trinidad and Tobago.”

Most of Trinidad and Tobago’s potable water supply (60 per cent) comes from surface water sources such as rivers and streams, and total water demand is expected to almost double between 1997 and 2025.

With climate change predictions indicating that Trinidad and Tobago will become hotter and drier, in 2010, the estimated water availability for the country was 1477 m3 per year, which is a decrease of 1000 m3 per year from 1998.

Deforestation for housing, agriculture, quarrying and road-building has also increased the incidence of siltation of rivers and severe flooding.

“The challenge of water in Trinidad and Tobago is one of both quality and quantity,” Gonzales said.

“Our vital water supply is being threatened by industrial, agricultural and residential activities. Indiscriminate discharge of industrial waste into waterways, over-pumping of groundwater sources and pollution of rivers by domestic and commercial waste are adversely affecting the sustainability of our water resources.

“There is therefore an urgent need for a more coordinated approach to protecting and managing our most critical and finite resource – water,” she added.

Trinidad and Tobago’s Minister of Foreign Affairs Winston Dookeran said there is an urgent need to protect human dignity and alleviate the sufferings of people because of climate change.

“We know that the urgency is now. Business as usual is not enough. We are not on track to meet our agreed 2.0 or 1.5 degree Celsius objective for limiting the increase in average global temperatures, so urgent and ambitious actions to reduce greenhouse gas emissions in the atmosphere is absolutely necessary,” he told IPS.

Dookeran added that “there is no excuse not to act” since economically viable and technologically feasible options already exist to significantly enhance efforts to address climate change.

“Even with a less than two degrees increase in average global temperatures above pre-industrial levels, small island states like Trinidad and Tobago are already experiencing more frequent and more intense weather events as a result of climate change,” Dookeran said.

The foreign affairs minister said residents can look forward to even more mitigation measures that will take place in the first quarter of this year with respect to the intended nationally determined contributions for mitigation.

“Notwithstanding our minor contribution to this global problem we are taking a proactive approach, guided by the recognition of our vulnerability and the tremendous responsibility to safeguard the future of our people,” he said.

“Trinidad and Tobago has made important inroads in dealing with the problem as we attempt to ensure that climate change is central to our development. As we prepare our economy for the transition to low carbon development and as we commit ourselves to carbon neutrality, the government of Trinidad and Tobago is working assiduously towards expanding the use of renewable energy in the national energy mix,” he added.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Climate Policy Goes Hand-in-Hand with Water Policy

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Guyana beverage manufacturer Banks DIH Limited treats all waste water, making it safe for disposal into the environment. Credit: Desmond Brown/IPS

Concerned that climate change could lead to an intensification of the global hydrological cycle, Caribbean stakeholders are working to ensure it is included in the region’s plans for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM).

The basis of IWRM is that the many different uses of finite water resources are interdependent. High irrigation demands and polluted drainage flows from agriculture mean less freshwater for drinking or industrial use.

Contaminated municipal and industrial wastewater pollutes rivers and threatens ecosystems. If water has to be left in a river to protect fisheries and ecosystems, less can be diverted to grow crops.

Meanwhile, around the world, variability in climate conditions, coupled with new socioeconomic and environmental developments, have already started having major impacts.

The Global Water Partnership-Caribbean (GWP-C), which recently brought international and regional stakeholders together for a conference in Trinidad, is aimed at better understanding the climate system and the hydrological cycle and how they are changing; boosting awareness of the impacts of climate change on society, as well as the risk and uncertainty in the context of water and climate change and especially variability; and examining adaptation options in relation to water and climate change.

“Basically we’re looking to integrate aspects of climate change and climate variability and adaptation into the Caribbean water sector,” Natalie Boodram, programme manager of the Water, Climate and Development Programme (WACDEP), told IPS.

“And this is a very big deal for us because under predicted climate change scenarios we’re looking at things like drier dry seasons, more intense hurricanes, when we do get rain we are going to get more intense rain events, flooding.

“All of that presents a substantial challenge for managing our water resources. So under the GWP-C WACDEP, we’re doing a number of things to help the region adapt to this,” she added.

Current variability and long-term climate change impacts are most severe in a large part of the developing world, and particularly affect the poorest.

Through its workshops, GWP-C provides an opportunity for partners and stakeholders to assess the stage of the IWRM process that various countries have reached and work together to operationalise IWRM in their respective countries.

Integrated Water Resources Management is a process which promotes the coordinated development and management of water, land and related resources in order to maximise economic and social welfare in an equitable manner without compromising the sustainability of vital ecosystems.

IWRM helps to protect the world’s environment, foster economic growth and sustainable agricultural development, promote democratic participation in governance, and improve human health.

GWP-C regional co-ordinator, Wayne Joseph, said the regional body is committed to institutionalising and operationalising IWRM in the region.

“Our major programme is the WACDEP Programme, Water and Climate Development Programme, and presently we are doing work in four Caribbean Countries – Jamaica, Antigua, Guyana and St. Lucia,” he told IPS.

“We’re gender-sensitive. We ensure that the youth are incorporated in what we do and so we provide a platform, a neutral platform, so that issues can be discussed that pertain to water and good water resources management.”

The Caribbean Youth Environment Network (CYEN) is a non-profit, civil society body that focuses its resources on empowering Caribbean young people and their communities to develop programmes and actions to address socioeconomic and environmental issues.

Rianna Gonzales, the national coordinator of the Trinidad and Tobago Chapter, has welcomed the initiative of the GWP-C as being very timely and helpful, adding that the region’s youth have a very important role to play in the process.

“I think it’s definitely beneficial for young people to be part of such a strategic group of people in terms of getting access to resources and experts…so that we will be better able to communicate on water related issues,” she told IPS.

The CYEN programme aims at addressing issues such as poverty alleviation and youth employment, health and HIV/AIDS, climatic change and global warming, impact of natural disasters/hazards, improvement in potable water, conservation and waste management and other natural resource management issues.

The GWP-C said the Caribbean region has been exposed to IWRM and it is its goal to work together with its partners and stakeholders at all levels to implement IWRM in the Caribbean.

“A very significant activity for the Organisation of Eastern Caribbean States has been to prepare a Water Sector Model Policy and Model Water Act which proposes to remedy the key water resources management issues through new institutional arrangements and mechanisms that include water and waste water master planning, private sector and community partnership and investment mechanisms,” GWP-C chair Judy Daniel told IPS.

IWRM has not been fully integrated in the policy, legal and planning frameworks in the Caribbean although several territories have developed/drafted IWRM Policies, Roadmaps and Action plans. Some of these countries include: Antigua and Barbuda; Barbados; Dominica; Grenada; Guyana, Jamaica; The Bahamas; Trinidad and Tobago; and St. Vincent and the Grenadines.

Credit: Inter Press Service News Agency

Africa and the Caribbean Talks Water Security and Climate Resilient Development

Participants at the Africa and the Caribbean Knowledge Exchange on Water Security and Climate Resilient Development

Participants at the Africa and the Caribbean Knowledge Exchange on Water Security and Climate Resilient Development

A first of its kind south-south knowledge exchange between Africa and the Caribbean on water security and climate resilient development was held at the Asa Wright Nature Centre in Trinidad this week (June 26, 2014). The meeting, which was held as a side event during the 2014 Global Water Partnership Network and Consulting Partners Meeting (held outside its host country Sweden for the first time), sought to enable lessons and experience sharing across the regions based on initiatives planned and realized under GWP’s global Water, Climate and Development (WACDEP) programme. “Despite obvious geographic differences, the two regions have much to learn from each other on the development and application of the regional frameworks, tools, strategies and knowledge products for advancing water security and climate resilience,” said GWP-Caribbean WACDEP Coordinator Natalie Boodram.

The high-level technical meeting was attended by 17 participants representing entities such as the Caribbean Community (CARICOM) Secretariat, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), Global Water Partnership (GWP) Secretariat, and regional GWP teams from Africa and the Caribbean.

Under the WACDEP programme, which is now active in 13 GWP Regions, GWP-Caribbean and GWP-Africa with support from the Climate Development and Knowledge Network (CDKN) have been supporting the development of contextually relevant Frameworks that promotes synergies and opportunities to integrate water security and climate resilience into development planning processes. Among the distinguishing features of this approach is the focus given to the preparation of no/low regrets investment strategies.

The CCCCC’s project development specialist Keith Nichols told Caribbean Climate that the knowledge sharing exercise was “very revealing and informative”. He added that “it highlights the fact that there are significant achievements across the regions that should be shared notwithstanding the geographical differences”. Alex Simalabwi, global coordinator for WACDEP at GWP, agrees. He notes that the Africa and the Caribbean knowledge sharing exercise was an outstanding initiative that “offers excellent opportunities for both [regions] to address climate resilient development and should be pursued further within the context of international investment and trade”. To realize this he made a call for south-south exchange involving key regional entities such as CARICOM, 5Cs and the African Union.

The inaugural knowledge exchange on water security and climate resilient development between Africa and the Caribbean follows discussions two years ago at the 8th Annual High Level Session (HLS) Ministerial Forum on Water, which was not only attended by Caribbean Ministers responsible for water but also the Executive Secretary of the Africa Ministers’ Council on Water (AMCOW).

Australian Envoy Touts Collaboration with the 5Cs

Credit: CARICOM Secretariat.Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (R), CARICOM Secretary-General, accepts the Letters of Credence of His Excellency Ross William Tysoe (L), the Plenipotentiary Representative of Australia to CARICOM. Thursday 4 April, 2013, CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters, Georgetown, Guyana.

Credit: CARICOM Secretariat.
Ambassador Irwin LaRocque (R), CARICOM Secretary-General, accepts the Letters of Credence of His Excellency Ross William Tysoe (L), the Plenipotentiary Representative of Australia to CARICOM. Thursday 4 April, 2013, CARICOM Secretariat Headquarters, Georgetown, Guyana.

The Australian High Commissioner to CARICOM Ross Tysoe AO says “impressive work” is being carried out by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre (CCCCC), which he experienced first-hand during a recent visit.

The envoy cited the Centre’s effective management of Australia’s technical and cooperation assistance in supporting Belize’s Barrier Reef Marine System, adding that Australia is pleased to have contributed to this project which included a coral reef early warning station. The Ambassador said the project is a “fantastic example” of CARICOM-Australia cooperation. Speaking on Thursday, April 04, 2013 following the formal acceptance of his letter of credence by CARICOM Secretary-General Ambassador Irwin LaRocque, the envoy said he is convinced Australia’s aid programmes are “in safe hands”.

Executive Director of the CARICOM Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenric Leslie and High Commissioner Ross Tysoe, AO

Executive Director of the CARICOM Climate Change Centre Dr. Kenric Leslie CBE and High Commissioner Ross Tysoe, AO

Cooperation between CARICOM and Australia was formalised in November 2009 at the Commonwealth Heads of Government Meeting (CHOGM), in Port of Spain, Trinidad and Tobago, between the leaders of CARICOM and Australia. At that meeting, a Memorandum of Understanding was signed, paving the way for Australia to make some $60 million (AUS) available over four years to CARICOM for cooperation in areas of special mutual interest.

The areas of cooperation include climate change, disaster risk reduction and emergency management; regional integration, including trade facilitation; education, including in the fields of science and technology, provision of scholarships and training of diplomats; university co-operation; food security and agricultural co-operation; renewable energy, microfinance; border security and sport, youth and culture.

Read 5Cs Welcomes Australia’s High Commissioner to CARICOM to learn more about Ambassador Tysoe’s recent visit to Centre.

Tackling the Caribbean’s Climate-driven Water Resource Problems…

Dr. Jason PolkAssociate Director of Science at the Hoffman Environmental Research Institute, says climate-driven water resource problems in the Caribbean could give rise to another intractable problem, community resistance to increased costs and regulations, if a concerted effort to educate the public  about the challenges and possible solutions is delayed. Read  his exclusive contribution to Caribbean Climate.

Dr. Jason Polk (centre), along with fellow WKU faculty members Dr. Xingang Fan (left) and Dr. Josh Durkee (right) following a meeting at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belmopan, Belize.

Dr. Jason Polk (centre), along with fellow WKU faculty members Dr. Xingang Fan (left) and Dr. Josh Durkee (right) following a meeting at the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre in Belmopan, Belize.

The Caribbean is changing every day. The people are changing, as is the geography. Perhaps most importantly, the Caribbean’s climate is changing, like it always has for thousands of years, yet never under the scrutiny with which it is examined today. Geographically, the Caribbean is diverse in its makeup. Isolated islands and small coastal nations that seem lonely and individually reliant upon their ability to persevere against the onset of environmental challenges. These countries comprise a group that shares a long and rich history, and are collectively facing challenges in addressing the risks and impacts from global climate change. Of these, one of the most pressing is the potential impact on the region’s water resources.

Water. Simple, natural, and plentiful. Mention the Caribbean and one immediately thinks of the sea, warm beaches, hurricanes, and shipwrecks. While these images certainly are a reality, behind them exists a region in trouble due to a changing global climate and the demand for fresh water. So, a question to be answered is from where does one obtain water on a Caribbean island? From the rivers? From the ground? Maybe from the ocean? These are all questions needing both to be asked and answered by people of the Caribbean and those looking in from outside. In answering these questions, one may be better able to understand the complex and pressing challenges that climate change has on water resources in the region.

Over the past few decades, new information and events have spurned a closer examination of the future temperature and rainfall patterns of the Caribbean. Results from the recent Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change (IPCC) report and other regional climate studies indicate the Caribbean region will undergo significant changes, including the following:

  • variability in seasonal rainfall distribution, including decreasing average rainfall amounts of up to 20% or more and subsequent droughts in some areas, while increased seasonal rainfall and flooding events may occur elsewhere
  • changes in hurricane intensity and unpredictability, with the likelihood of more severe storms, including higher winds
  • an increase in average temperatures across the region
  • sea level rise of several millimeters or more, causing coastal inundation and changes in geography and topography
Credit: CGIAR

Credit: CGIAR

With these changes, there will be impacts on the fresh water resources of every nation in the region. Water stress will be one of the greatest challenges, as reduced precipitation and increasing temperatures will cause a lack of water availability in countries like the Bahamas, Grenada, and Jamaica, who already suffer from water scarcity. Several countries, such as Trinidad and Tobago and Barbados, are among the most water-stressed nations in the world, meaning that they require more water than is available to the population on an annual basis. Part of this is due to the seasonal availability of rainfall, which is slowly changing due to climate variability.

The cause and effect relationship between precipitation and water scarcity is one of the simpler connections to be made from predicted climate change patterns; however, many others will arise and vary with regional geography, and potential water resource impacts include:

  • challenges to access due to changing conditions in surface streams, springs, and groundwater supplies during drought conditions
  • water quality issues that arise from flooding and population growth as communities and city centers grow in the face of declining agriculture
  • increased flooding from severe storms and hurricanes
  • salt water intrusion into coastal groundwater aquifers
  • increasing water scarcity due to infrastructural challenges and limited capacity to adapt quickly enough to changing climatic conditions

For example, take Barbados, which relies primarily on groundwater from a karst aquifer. Karst is a landscape typified by caves and springs, wherein the rock dissolves away and water is stored in the remaining voids. This type of landscape is commonly found throughout the Caribbean region, and its water resources are highly vulnerable to impacts like pollution, drought, and sea-level rise. Inundation by salt-water can permanently ruin a karst aquifer’s freshwater supply, as the saline water will displace the freshwater, decreasing both its quantity and quality. In places like Barbados and Curacao, desalination plants are necessary to make up the difference in water demand and supply. However, these can be expensive to build and maintain, creating additional environmental consequences in the form of briny discharge and fossil fuel consumption. Curacao is among the region’s oldest user of desalination, having utilized the technology for many decades in the region; yet, today the demands for fresh water still exceed the supply capacity and larger plants are necessary to meet the island’s needs.

Cave KarstThere will continue to be an increasing demand on water resources throughout the region from tourism growth as countries look toward economic gain to finance the mitigation of changing environmental conditions. Water utilities will need to be expanded, coastal development will require additional engineering solutions, and the cost of addressing the human health aspects of waterborne diseases may increase. Without a concerted effort to inform the public of the issues and possible solutions related to climate-driven water resource problems, a bigger challenge may be community resistance to increased costs and regulations. Even those people who opt for cheaper solutions, such as rainwater collection or local wells, may be forced to rely less on these as viable options if rainfall amounts decrease or salt water intrudes, and may demand access to public utilities as an alternative.

Water resource management policies and mitigation plans are often driven by political, economic, and developmental priorities, rather than science- or education- driven solutions, including technological and sustainable ways to adapt to climate change. In the Caribbean region, there exist several possible solutions already in use to varying degrees, including:

  • rainwater collection from roofs using barrels and cisterns
  • desalination plants that are solar powered and able to produce minimal byproducts
  • purchasing and shipping in water from nearby locations (like the water barges used between Andros and Nassau, Bahamas)
  • public education and outreach about conservation efforts

Tap waterA comprehensive assessment of water resource demands, infrastructure, and policies across the region is needed in order to address the critical areas requiring attention. Leaders have resources available to them to assist in information gathering and decision-making, such as those provided by the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre and other groups. Several courses of action are possible to mitigate water resource challenges caused by climate change. Yet, the first step is to become educated about climate change science and both local and regional water resource issues. Community members can play a role at all levels, from individual conservation efforts to leading regional programs for entire communities. Most importantly, call for action to help build resiliency through education and training. To effect large-scale changes, nations must develop sustainable policies at a regional level to work together to address climate change impacts on water resources.

The reality is climate change impacts do not discriminate among nations, people, governments, economic levels, or geographies, nor do they wait for communities to prepare before occurring. Addressing climate change in the region requires that leaders and community members think locally and act globally. Get to know about climate change science. Get to know a neighbor. Get to know the geography of the Caribbean. Become a part of the conversation in your communities and in the region.

** Dr. Polk is an Assistant Professor of Geography and Geology at the University of Western Kentucky.

Peruse our vault of works (internal and external) on climate change and the Caribbean’s water sector here, by entering the keywords ‘water and climate change’. You’ll find guides on adaptation measures to address the absence of freshwater and coastal vulnerability, pilots, including the Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment System in Bequia, and  national water sector strategies for Jamaica and Belize, and much more.

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