sargassum at Handsome Bay
A backhoe clears sargassum from the beach at Handsome Bay on Sept. 4. (File photo: ANIKA CHRISTOPHER)

Inadequate infrastructure and an influx of sargassum seaweed have caused recent water rationing in The Valley, Virgin Gorda, but plans are in place to address both issues, government announced Sept. 21 after residents began circulating a petition decrying the situation.

Currently, the operational capacity at the existing water production plant in Handsome Bay is insufficient to meet the community’s demands, the Ministry of Communications Works explained in a statement.

“Also compounding the problem is the distribution system, with inadequate pipes to transmit the potable water throughout the community,” the statement noted.

“The Ministry of Communications and Works will be issuing an expression of interest to obtain the services of a reputable and qualified company to replace and upgrade the water distribution network through a public-private partnership engagement.”

Sargassum solutions

Measures are also in the works to address the sargassum seaweed that has overwhelmed Handsome Bay in recent months and infiltrated the intake pipes at the water plant, the statement noted.

“The Ministry of Environment, Natural Resources, and Climate Change is in the process of procuring a boom (floating physical barrier) to prevent sargassum from entering Handsome Bay, with plans to have it installed by the end of the year,” the ministry added.

The water plant company, Aqua Design, has also arranged for a local dive company to modify to the present intake structure to reduce the sargassum impact “within the next few weeks,” according to the statement.

“The team at Aqua Design has also indicated that they are anticipating the arrival of new membranes, which will improve the plant’s daily production,” the ministry stated.

“Once all required parts presently on order are received timely, the plant’s daily capacity will increase to approximately 430,000 imperial gallons per day by the middle of December 2023.”

Ongoing issues

The water issues on VG have been ongoing for months.

Faced with complaints, government announced Sept. 1 that it had resolved the problem by flushing waterlines and cleaning sargassum from Handsome Bay near the island’s desalination plant.

But residents told a different story.

They said the island has been plagued for months with foul odours and water shutoffs often linked to the government’s ongoing failure to adequately manage sargassum seaweed.


Last month, VG resident Sharon Flax-Brutus launched an online petition decrying the water situation and calling for a meeting with senior public officers no later than Oct. 6.

“The situation has reached emergency stages in the last two weeks,” the petition stated. “On a regular basis, we are told that the reservoir levels are low — hence, water supply has to be rationed. … We are very concerned that September is one of the periods of lowest water demand due to off-peak tourism season, and yet there appears to be low water levels.”

When this story was posted, the petition had 173 signatures.