Simply put, the island is currently in a dry spell.
As context, the Government water system provides piped water to approximately 2,000 households, businesses, the King Edward VII Memorial Hospital, the Mid Atlantic Wellness Institute and is also the safety net for two thirds of Bermuda’s households, being the principal supplier of trucked water on the island. During dry spells or drought times, some 40,000 Bermuda residents will rely on water trucks to meet their water needs.
For the month of May, the Water and Sewage Section has sold 1.52 million imperial gallons to water truckers. For the same period last year, the Section sold 1.36 million imperial gallons of water or some 160 extra truck loads over last years demand.
In the last 12 months, the Water Section has made several improvements to the overall operation of the water systems to respond to peak demand, some of which include the following:
1. The installation and commissioning of refurbishedReverse Osmosis Water Treatment systems at the Tudor Hill Water Treatment Plant, Southampton, increasing its output capacity by 25% . This retrofit has improved the reliability of the plant as it is now a duty standby system to mitigate possible failures at the site.
2. The installation and commissioning of a refurbished Reverse Osmosis Water Treatment system at the Prospect Water Treatment Plant, Devonshire, increasing its output capacity by 60 percent.
3. The continued expansion of a remote monitoring and control system for the Central, Western and Eastern service areas capable of monitoring system status 24 hours a day / 7 days a week. This data can be accessed directly on operations staff mobile devices, which facilitates early detection of distribution mains breakages, low or high tank levels, high flow alarms and power and communications outages.
4. As part of a trenching project with BELCO, approximately 10,000 feet of High Density Polyethylene Pipe (HDPE) has been installed so far this year. 20,000 feet will be installed by end of this calandear year. This installation is in Harrington Sound Road and will aslo be expanded from Middle Road to Flatts. Some of this is for future expansion, and some is to replace old pipe infrastructure that has passed its useful life and is a source of water losses.
5. Replacement of the Ministry’s automated water dispensing system for the water trucker’s outlets. The Works and Engineering Bulk Water Management System is a bulk water dispensing management software package for the Department of Works and Engineering Water trucker’s outlets. The software’s user interface allows navigation between site, account, card and transaction screens. The software provides simultaneous multi-user access, security features and a centralized card database for multiple sites. The application is cloud-based, browser enabled, and can allow trucking companies to reconcile their transactions with their invoicing easily if they wish.
The Tynes Bay Seawater Reverse Osmosis Plant is the primary source of Government water supply for the Central Parishes. It is presently operating at almost maximum capacity. The central distribution systems water supply is also being supplemented by water production at the Fort Prospect water treatment plant. The other previous central area production facility at Devon Springs Road is no longer operational due to obsolete existing control systems, equipment and structural issues with the building.
For the Western Parishes, the Tudor Hill Reverse Osmosis facility is back up to two water treatment units but still down from its original four production unit capacity. There is a plan to increase production via the installation of Seawater plants in that location. The Department of Works and Engineering are in discussion with the Department of Environment and Natural resources on water rights to support that initiative.
And for St Georges Parish, there is a single RO plant supplying water under contract. You will recall, however, that previously, I reported on the Water and Wastewater Master plan and its first phase that is currently being implemented for St. George’s Parish. That initiative is advancing and will provide the servicing required for the parish’s near term and future needs. Until that time, the system will have to be managed very carefully to ensure consistent access to water for the local community.
The current production capacity from all plants is unable to meet current demand. This has required water access restrictions to the distribution systems.For example,the reservoirs at Fort Prospect (Central Distribution hub) are presently being maintained at between 25 percent and 50 percent of capacity. During the hurricane Season the policy has been to maintain the levels above 80 percent to ensure emergency support to the hospital as well as other key water consumers.
The West End Development Corporation (WEDCO), is continuing to assist in the West distribution system by providing supplementary water supply to a section of the system located between Dockyard and Watford Bridge.
As with all types of infrastructure, any catastrophic failure of the above plant or infrastructure will likely necessitate further reduced access to water by piped and water trucker customers until the failure is corrected.
The following activities are being performed in the near to medium term to mitigate the effect of a possible dry spell and other issues outside the control of the Water and Sewage Section:
We are in the process of procuring a Dual Outlet ‘Island Style’ Commercial Bulk Water trucker Station. This unit will expand the the Works and Engineering Bulk Water Management System, be located at Southside, and use the BLDC Water & Wastewater Infrastructure upgrades (first phase of the Master Plan) to provide consistent access to trucked water for customers in the eastern end of the island. The plan is to install and commission this outlet by March 2022.
In the latter part of the fiscal year, the remote monitoring and control system will be expanded with seven (7) new electromagnetic flow meters and three (3) tank level monitors at strategic locations to provide feedback in real-time on demands and tank levels in the water distribution systems. We will also commission the functionality of using the remote monitoring system to monitor, trend and alarm adverse events concerning the recently retrofitted Water treatment systems as well as the Tynes Bay Seawater Reverse Osmosis facility treatment systems.
The Ministry’s Water and Sewage Section, has also been working with an external agency, the Port Royal Golf Course, as well as Tourism by initiating a water servicing project for the PRGC. As Members may be aware, The Bermuda Championship fulfils the role of a “pinnacle” event for the Bermuda Tourism Authorities golf strategy…. one of many events aligning with the National Tourism Plan.
The PRGC has long struggled with the water supply for the golf course. This was more apparent in the run-up to the last championship event. The new initiative aims to improve and modify the water supply to the Port Royal Golf Course. This improvement will take place in two (2) phases. Phase I will include the installation of a pump system and supply line from a water catchment system located on the Morgan’s point property, installation of a transmission line from the Ministry’s water distribution system to a modified internal existing water supply system as well, as initiating and managing a maintenance contract to monitor and maintain the existing SWRO plants currently located at the PRGC. Phase 2 will include retrofitting and relocating the existing PRGC SWRO plants to the MPW Tudor Hill WTP and supplying the PRGC from the MPW water distribution system.
The primary threat to operations during a drought at anytime is suffering unpredictable mains breaks and water storage failures in a very old infrastructure. As such, we are working on a multi-year capital development program to improve service levels to all customers over the next few years.
With that said, there still is a need for all island residents to be conscious of their water usage this summer, regularly check their tanks and above all, conserve water.
I am sure you will agree that the water and sewage section has been very busy over the last year – they currently have 17 staff, all but one of which are Bermudian – ably led by Mr J Tarik Christopher. Principal Engineer (Water & Sewage). They take tremendous pride in their work, and I wish to publicly commend and thank them for all their efforts on behalf of the people of Bermuda in this very critical area.
I am confident that their efforts will soften the challenges we will face this summer with water production and delivery.