Potworks Dam Back Online!

23 12 2019

Dale C. S. Destin|

Potworks Dam, Antigua’s largest water catchment, is back online after being offline from around middle of last month, for the fourth time this year. The billion-gallon catchment water levels rose above extraction levels during the rains of late November and early December allowing for it to be reconnected to country’s water lines, to supply potable water.

Ian Lewis, Manager – Antigua Public Utilities Authority (APUA) Water Business Unit

For the year, the Dam first fell below extraction levels back in April but was topped up in late May. It again went below extraction levels in September but was topped up later that month. And again, it fell below extraction levels around mid-November but was partially recharged late November/early December; hence the reason why it is back online.

There is now a slight meteorological drought, which started in October. Based on the latest forecasts, over the upcoming months, it is expected to persist or worsen. Prior to this drought, there was a severe drought from October 2017 to April 2019 – 19 month long.

For the month of November, the catchment area – Bethesda Village, received a little over 100 mm (over 4 in) of rainfall. This is below normal but twice the total for October – 54.9 mm (2.16 in), which is well below normal 150-175 mm (6-7 in). Already, for December, the area has had over 100 mm (over 4 in), which is more than usual.

With Potworks back above extraction levels along with other smaller catchments, water rationing has been terminated, according to the Antigua Public Utility Authority (APUA), the water authority. However, there remains a hydrological drought of, at least, moderate intensity, with no end in sight.

Potworks Dam is less than a quarter full (over three-quarters empty). It has around 200,000 million gallons compared to a capacity of a billion gallons. It has been over five years since it reached capacity; being close to empty or empty has been the norm since 2014.

Potworks Dam – December 4, 2019. Pic courtesy Karen Corbin – Antigua Humane Society

According to APUA, at the usual rate of extraction, the Dam has two to three months of water supply. This means that it will be a part of the country’s water mix until March – the heart of the dry season. Thus, there is not enough surface water to last through the dry season – January to June 2020.

Recharge of catchments is very unlikely during the dry season. This is especially so for this coming dry season, as the outlook is for below normal rainfall being most likely. Hence, Potworks is expected to come offline again by March and will likely remain offline from then until the wetter portion of the wet season – August to November.

Precipitation forecast for January-March 2020, based on 12 global models – 40 to 50% chance of below normal rainfall for Antigua and the rest of the Eastern Caribbean
The outlook shows 45% chance of below normal rainfall for Antigua and the northeast Caribbean for March to May 2020

Given the season and the forecast, a return to water rationing is almost inevitable in about three months, when Potworks Dam is expected to be offline again. Water conservation and efficiency cannot be over encouraged. Let us treat water like the scarce but precious commodity that it is and make every drop count. Think rain!

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