Barbados Project Objective
To strengthen national adaptive capacity to address health issues related to climate change attributable water scarcity.
Key Health Concerns and Vulnerability to Climate Change
Barbados is already classified as a water scarce country. A further reduction in the availability of water, due to changes in precipitation patterns could lead to serious health impacts. Climate change is expected to affect the quantity and quality of available water. Previous projects concluded that sea level rise causing saline intrusion and changing weather patterns will adversely affect the water supply. With a limited water supply in the future there will be competition between various sectors with regards to the use of water.
Water scarcity can cause a variety of health problems by reducing the amount of water available to practice basic hygiene and by increasing the risk of chemical and microbial contamination; these can lead to gastrointestinal diseases and other health risks. Treated wastewater will be needed for non-potable purposes in the future; this will require effective management of the resultant health risks.
Barbados has the highest rate of dengue fever in the Americas. Studies in the Caribbean show an association between climate variability and increasing incidence of dengue fever. Rainwater storage is being promoted as an adaptation option to increase availability of freshwater, however, environmental health officers report an increase in the Aedes aegypti index due to mosquito breeding in domestic rainwater storage tanks. To reduce the negative impacts on public health, there are requirements to improve storage facilities to eliminate vector breeding, provide technical guidelines with regards to the construction and maintenance of water tanks, and to increase public awareness with regards to effective and safe water storage.
The most substantial benefit expected to arise from this project is the reduced incidence of dengue fever while increasing water safety and
availability. Other significant benefits include:
- Improved coordination and cooperation between relevant governmental and nongovernmental organizations.
- Improved practices for the storage of rainwater, preventing the breeding of Aedes aegypti.
- Increased awareness of A. aegypti breeding sites in rainwater tanks as well as other potential breeding sites and the reduction of overall breeding opportunities.
- The level of public knowledge will be enhanced in regards to wastewater reuse.
Results and Learning:
This project will include two areas of action. The first will use treated wastewater to recharge an aquifer, while minimizing health impacts. The second will focus on using wastewater for irrigation, while ensuring no increase in adverse health outcomes. Results from the pilot projects will be used to develop water quality standards for the use of treated wastewater, policies and procedures to ensure adequate aquifer recharge and safe and effective use of wastewater for irrigation, and increase the proportion of the community who are aware of the need for the use of treated wastewater. These results will be achieved through addressing the following adaptive capacity issues:
- Resources - There is a lack of sufficient national capacity in terms of human and financial resources for incorporating climate change risks into health sector activities.
- Governance - There are a lack of guidelines and legislation for water storage. This means that any new storage facility that is developed does not take into consideration climate change and the related health impacts.
- Waste water capacity - There is also a lack of capacity with regards to wastewater reuse issues. Barbados has little experience with regards to utilizing wastewater for non-potable purposes or for aquifer recharge. Human and technological capacity can be improved in this area.
- Communication and Information - There is a significant lack of information and therefore communication on climate change and it impacts in Barbados. This includes those in the health sector as well as the general public. Linked to this, there is a shortage of communication to the general public on climate change issues and how certain diseases, particularly dengue are related to climate.