05 June, 2007

Water Bills

Public Water. While I am on Anguilla’s public water supply, let me get one matter off my chest. That is the payment system for public water, or lack thereof. While I was gone from Anguilla between the years 1999 and 2004, working in neighbouring islands, I diligently paid my Anguillian water bill every month. Even when I was not there to use any water, I paid. I had been told that I had to pay for the meter rental. Whether or not I used any water, I had to pay the monthly minimum. I paid. I considered it my civic duty, indeed a legal obligation. It was only years later that I learned that the mains pipe from the water tank at Old Ta to North Hill village, into which I had a connection, had been abandoned several years previously. I had been paying for water that not only I had not been using, but that had ceased to flow in that mains pipe for several years before. I could not have used it even if I had turned on the tap! The Water Department was considerate enough to cancel my last bill and discontinue the billing.

It turns out that there is no legal obligation to pay for water in Anguilla. Most people who are fortunate enough to receive a supply of piped government water do not pay for it. Only suckers pay. That’s official. I have learned that a consultant’s report several years ago revealed that, even then, at least fifty percent of all the public water supplied in Anguilla was being stolen. I understand there was an effort to prosecute one or two of the biggest offenders, people who took government water and even resold it. Nothing came of the effort. The Attorney General’s Chambers advised the Water Department that no prosecution could succeed. The reason why? Apparently, the law of Anguilla still was that only the secretary of the St Kitts Water Board could prosecute. And, since there was no St Kitts Water Board, nor any secretary of it, in Anguilla, there was no one authorized to prosecute persons who stole Anguilla’s public water. The Water Department tried cutting off the water supply to offenders’ homes. The culprits simply got a plumber to hook up unofficial connections to tap into the public supply. Not one of these offenders, of whom I understand there are several hundred, was ever prosecuted.

So, why did government not just introduce a law in the House of Assembly and create a new Water Board to enforce Anguilla’s water laws? They were advised to do just that. I am told that a draft new law was even Gazetted for discussion several years ago. But, then our brilliant and far-thinking Ministers had second thoughts. They withdrew support for the proposed new law. The reason? They did not want to “criminalize” stealing of water. Why not? Because, it turns out, some of their biggest supporters were the major offenders. The reason why their excuse for inaction is stupid is that everyone knows that they could have announced an amnesty and given every one of the thieves a chance to get their connection recorded and legalized. It would only be the most deliberate and stubborn of offenders who would be “criminalized”.

Meanwhile, I have checked the law. What the Water Department was advised by the Attorney General’s Chambers is no longer true, if it ever was. The Watercourses and Waterworks Act does provide for an Anguilla Water Board. It consists of the Water Engineer and four other members to be appointed by ExCo. All that happened is that ExCo failed to appoint the four members. They seem to have deliberately not put in place the Water Board that the law provided for to enforce Anguilla’s water legislation. If this conjecture is true, it is evidence of absolute negligence on the part of ExCo!

Needless to say, I long ago stopped paying for government water. I rely on my cistern and the water I collect on my roof. I have to do so. There is no functioning water mains anywhere near my home. I still cannot get public water even though I want to pay for it.

This post was an aside. I want to continue considering some health hazards in the next few ones.


  1. The government has failed in so many areas. That is the benefit we are reaping today. Everything is in a mess. I hope that Anguillians remember all that is been done and what is continuing.

  2. The AG's Chambers advice was that the Water Board was "not constituted". While Public Works had a Water Engineer, the other four Members were not appointed by Ex Co. The reason being the Water was being managed in Anguilla by a Departmental system and not a Statutory Board as the Act allowed. Government decided to make a completed revision of the Act as it was based on surface water and had did not relate to ground water and its peculiar problems. The draft Acts, the Water Wells Act and a Water Corporation Act, were practically completed in 2004 and 2005 respectively by a private lawyer. They were stalled for sometime as the AG's Chamber was putting its "particular stamp" on the provisions.

    The issue of prosecuting under the Criminal Code was discussed. We brought several cases to the police who were reluctant to proceed as they felt they needed to have evidence of the person who actually making the connection. (The new act makes whoever is the beneficiary responsible). Public Works did not particularly agree but it was their call. Contrary to your source, the reason why one of the most cut and dry cases was not advanced is because it involved an opposition politician. If he were found guilty he would not be eligible to run for elections. The Minister felt that Government would be accused of deliberately prosecuting him to prevent him running. That is the only case I know of Members of Ex Co having any input in the decision not to prosecute.

    Incidentally, the issues of theft are not so easy to detect, Anguillians have developed ingenious ways of by-passing the meters on the service lines and even tapping into main lines. (Making a system of "name and shame" might work). The level of theft has been calculated after a survey of the mains to determine the level of line losses in each area and calculating additional losses.

  3. Two alligators were relaxing in the swamp talking. The smaller one turned to the bigger one and said, "I can't understand how you kin be so much bigger'n me. We're the same age, and we was the same size as kids. I just don't get it."

    "Well," said the big 'gator, "What you been eatin', boy?" "Politicians, same as you," replied the small 'gator. "Hmm. Well, where do y'all catch 'em?" "Down 'tother side of the swamp near the parkin' lot by the capitol." "Same here. Hmm. How do you catch 'em?" "Well, I crawls up into one of them Lexus cars and wait fer one to open the car door. Then I jump out, grab 'em on the leg, shake the s..t out of 'em, and eat 'em!"

    "Ah!" says the big alligator, "I think I see your problem. You ain't gettin' any real nourishment. See, by the time you get done shakin' the s..t out of a Politician, there ain't nothin' left but an ...hole and a briefcase!"

  4. What I do not understand why the departments vehicles are in the employees yards and sometimes used as their personal vehicles. Is this a part of the deal

  5. Are these employees who are on call at night in case there's a pipe break? If so, and if a man lives in South Hill, for example, and there's a break in the main in West End and huge amounts of water are being wasted, do we want the guy driving from South Hill to Crocus Hill first to get his truck and tools? I don't know if that's the case.

    If I were the manager of the Water Department and had to listen to complaints about how slow their field crews respond, I would have men on call and they would be equipped to be effective.

    But maybe it's not that complicated. Maybe it's just more corruption; I don't know.


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