I drink pipe water ‘all the time’ – GWI’s Dr Van West-Charles


The country’s water authority – Guyana Water Incorporated (GWI) Friday afternoon signed a US$3.5 million contract for the overhaul of Shelter Belt, the city’s main water treatment facility, even as the utility’s boss reiterated that the current water supply is safe to drink.

“…what comes through the tap is water that you can drink and we are confident about that; I drink all the time at home,” Dr Richard Van West-Charles declared.  

“Many of you drink blindly the bottled water and you’ve never asked for the laboratory analysis of that water,” the GWI Chief Executive Officer quipped.

A consultant once suggested that the water utility’s Shelter Belt water treatment plant be blown up and a new one constructed, the Deputy Chairman David Dewar said Friday afternoon. 

Of course, that option was ruled out and GWI was tasked with fixing the facility that last saw major work done in the mid-1950s.

Now, Shelter Belt, which treats ground and surface water for distribution to the city’s 34, 000 customers will be overhauled by Mexican company Hi-Pro Ecologicos, which Friday afternoon signed the contract.

Dr Van West-Charles detailed the work to be done.

“It will overhaul the entire chemical, mixing and dosing systems for alum, lime and chlorine,” he stated, noting that 60% of the water coming to the citizens of Georgetown comes from surface water, which flows from the East Demerara Water Conservancy.

The project will also see the installation of sludge extractors, flocculators and valves for better treatment of the surface water.

There will also be the rehabilitation of the filter system to adequately treat water.

Dr West-Charles said the filter system was one of the main aspects that were neglected for a long time and very early in 2016, GWI ‘s team did a tremendous job of rehabilitating a number of filters, “but we can do better.”

The project also caters for the installation of water quality monitoring systems. But West-Charles said the utility didn’t wait for the project. Right now, he said the water is monitored on an hourly basis and that is why GWI can boast of the quality of water. 

When completed in less than two years, the overhaul of the Shelter Belt treatment plant is expected to guarantee citizens of the city pure drinking water from their taps, despite the fact that the water distribution main is at a critical stage. To fix the main will cost about US$60 million, Dr West-Charles stated. 

However, even with the current state of the distribution main, citizens can still drink water from their taps, something which he said he has been doing.


The overhaul of the Shelter Belt treatment plant is being financed through a Water Supply and Sanitation Infrastructure Improvement Program. The entire project, which includes three water treatment plants, is being funded with US$16.8 million from the Inter-American Development Bank and 10.6 million Euros from the Caribbean Investment Facility (CIF) of the European Union. 

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