Caribbean Small Island Developing States (SIDS) are on the front line of climate extremes, as the 2017 hurricane season starkly demonstrated. Hurricanes Irma and Maria brought widespread devastation to islands across the region. A combination of strong winds, storm surges and intense rainfall resulted in the loss of lives and significant damage to infrastructure.
Hurricane Maria passed directly over the island of Dominica as a Category 5 Hurricane, bringing 160 mph winds and torrential rain that resulted in flash floods and landslides. Critical electricity, water supply and communications infrastructure were severely disrupted. Some 43 of Dominica’s 44 water supply systems were damaged and left in need of large-scale repair and rehabilitation. Likewise, all of Barbuda’s water supply systems were damaged by Hurricane Irma. Wells were contaminated with saltwater from the storm surge and the reverse osmosis plant was damaged.
Improving the climate resilience of water supply services is essential in the fight to reduce the impacts of these extreme events on national, social, and economic development. Climate change adds further urgency, with the prospect of more Category 4 and 5 hurricanes and an increase in the frequency and severity of storms and droughts. Action for long-term resilience is needed now to avoid further suffering, loss and damage.