WATER RESOURCES ASSESSMENT OF HAITI
Knowles, Robert B.
Buckalew, James O.
Waite Roebuck, Laura
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Haiti is one of the most densely populated countries in the world and one of the poorest in the Western Hemisphere. The population has already outstripped domestic food production, and it is estimated that the population will be 8 million by the year 2000. One-third of the population lives in the Département de l’Ouest where Port-au-Prince is located. Heavy migration from rural areas to towns and cities occurring over the past decade has adversely affected the distribution of the water supply. Access to water and sanitation facilities is inadequate, contributing to poor living conditions, disease, and a high mortality rate. In 1990 only 39 percent of the 5.9 million residents had adequate access to water and only 24 percent to sanitation. The lack of potable water for basic human needs is one of the most critical problems in the country. Given the rainfall and abundant water resources, there is adequate water to meet the water demands, but proper management to develop and maintain the water supply requirements is lacking. However, the water supply sector is undergoing complete transformation. Although currently there is no comprehensive water policy, progress is being made towards establishing a national water resources management policy. Numerous agencies and non-government organizations (NGO’s) are working to provide water, many of which conduct their missions with little or no coordination with other agencies, which creates duplication of work and inefficient use of resources. The Reform Unit for Potable Water (URSEP) is a special agency created recently to help organize the efforts of the various agencies in the water sector. Pollution of the water resources is a significant problem. Contamination of surface water and shallow ground water aquifers are prevalent throughout the country. Domestic wastewater and agricultural runoff cause biological contamination of water near and downstream of populated places. Currently there is no public system for the collection and treatment of wastewater. Indications are that contamination is increasing rapidly, especially for surface water. The amount of water pollution is important because much of the population still uses surface water and ground water from shallow aquifers for their water supply. Deforestation, with its devastating environmental consequences, is a serious problem in Haiti. Lac de Peligre, the only major reservoir in the country, has lost 30 percent of its storage capacity due to sedimentation caused by deforestation. Deforestation accelerates soil erosion, decreases the amount of recharge to aquifers by increasing surface runoff, damages barrier reefs and ecosystems, increases turbidity which affects mangroves, decreases agricultural production, and causes problems and increased maintenance of water systems and impoundments. Hydrologic data is lacking also. As of April 1998, only 3 of the 35 gaging stations and 25 percent of the hydrometeorological gages were functional. The technical information obtained from such a network is critical for effective water resources management. If the recommendations for watershed management are adopted, if progress is made toward reducing the untreated waste entering the nation’s waterways, and if a national water resources management policy is implemented, positive, immediate, and long-term benefits could be realized.