TVM Sector Perspective
How Sector Activities Impact People, Place, Planet and Profit
Chapter 5 - Infrastructure
Importance of water
Water is more important than anything else. When water is abundant, this is not obvious. But in places where there is very little rainfall, the importance of water becomes very evident. Without water, everything ends. With water, a lot is possible. Water is essential to human life, and is essential also to animal life and growing food crops. Water is also important since it is also a contributing cause of violence, injury and death. There is a lot at stake in the water sector.
Knowledge about water
Knowledge about water is spread about a lot of organizations and should be systematically consolidated into a complete database that can be accessed easily by people with a legitimate interest. The database should be operated by a national institution, private or public. The data should be available easily from a number of access points. The data should be accessible for technical planning, and is also a part of the knowledge needed to have informed community dialog about what priorities are needed.
Competing demands for water
Where there is limited water in the area, and several competing uses, there is the potential for conflict. People need water for drinking and personal hygiene. Animals need water for drinking. The rangeland fodder and agricultural crops need water to grow. The interrelationships among water, range, animals and humans, both nomadic groups and settled groups, rural and urban, etc. are complicated and not well understood.
Sources of water
Haiti does not have a lot of rainfall, but it is blessed with two major rivers that have been a source of water for thousands of years. The average rainfall numbers are not a good indication of the way the rainfall is experienced. Often when there is rain, it is torrential, and a lot of rain falls in a very short time. Nearby, there may be no rain at all.
Quality of water
The availability of water is the first issue, but after that there is an issue of quality. Much of the available water has high salinity. In many rural areas the water quality is low and often has high bacteria content, and by most standards is unfit for human or animal consumption. Water quality is one of the most important issue in the health condition of both humans and animals in Haiti.
Community water sources and water storage
Remote communities have several different ways of obtaining water:
- From the rivers, with water treated at water treatment facilities.
- Boreholes, which often must be very deep and still then with low production. They are expensive and steel linings do not last long in the corrosive conditions of the area,
- Shallow wells, which serve both people and animals in many communities,
- Birkas, a swimming pool like structure, usually about 3 m deep, 3 m wide and 20m long lined with concrete that is used to catch and store water, often owned by an entrepreneur who sells the water,
- Hafir Dams, a dug out area with earth dam structure on the downhill side used to catch runoff during the rains, and mainly used to water animals
Urban water systems
Urban water systems are essential for the health of any urban community. Not all of the main towns in Haiti have enough water available. The systems are not sufficient to satisfy the present need, and certainly do will not satisfy the demand of longer run economic growth. Urban water systems need to be upgraded in various urban centers in the area. There are shortages of water in some urban areas, and sanitation is not sufficient. There needs to be both study and expansion of the urban water capacity.
Plans for water supply improvement
Plans for water supply improvement need to be prepared based on what is best for the local community, and what uses the least of money and other resources.
There are many contractors capable of doing work in the water sector. These contractors need to have the opportunity to gain more experience and improve their skills. Professional water engineers need to be encouraged to take a leadership role in the planning and management of water resources in the area.