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Water Conference Helps Players Make Connections

While providing a forum for experts on regionwide issues, this week’s Caribbean Water and Wastewater Conference and Exhibition at Marriott’s Frenchman’s Reef and Resort also played matchmaker for environmental groups and local government agencies that could help them with their work.
One such group, the youth club known as the Environmental Rangers, raised eyebrows among officials of the territory’s Department of Planning and Natural Resources when leaders took the floor and touted the group’s efforts with St. Thomas watersheds Thursday.
The Rangers, which include as many as 100 children and teens from local schools, have been playing watchdog by monitoring the water quality of local bays, salt ponds and other waterways as well as documenting the health of local coral reefs.
“If I didn’t come here I wouldn’t have known about their work,” said Anita Nibbs, DPNR’s environmental program manager, after a presentation by Ranger founders at one of the wrap-up sessions Thursday.
“Unless we have meetings like these, we won’t know all of what we need to know,” she said of the Rangers’ most recent work surveying the main gut and making silt barriers for Tutu Bay. “There are still a lot of connections to be made,” she said.
With the right mentoring and by meeting certain DPNR testing requirements, Nibbs said, groups like the Environmental Rangers could receive funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal bodies that must be distributed through DPNR. She promised Environmental Ranger leader Anna Francis that her agency would try to help them apply.
It takes more than the government to protect the environment, she said.
“We have all these wonderful regulations,” Nibbs said, trailing off to concede that there are not enough personnel to enforce the laws already on the books that would protect from the development-driven erosion, garbage and silt that ends up in the islands’ bays, beaches and wetlands.
“So we have to have the watershed groups,” she said. “We have to look to community groups.”
Through the conference, Ranger founder Francis also learned of other upcoming events at which like-minded residents can meet experts and where her club members can present their work and encourage other residents to start similar work in their local bays and beaches.
“The kids usually do the talking,” she said.
The weeklong water conference, which ends Friday, was co-hosted by the territorial Water and Power Authority, the Waste Management Authority, the Governor’s Office, the Department of Tourism and the University of the Virgin Islands. Participants have attended workshops and training in sessions in protecting, cleaning and preventing loss in island water sources and systems.
Earlier this week, WAPA’s executive director, Hugo Hodge Jr., said he hoped the conference would result in the formation of a consortium of water experts as a technological advisory body for CARICOM to push water issues to the top of the agenda at the next meeting of the Caribbean Community.
“We believe that an integrated water policy is a critical consideration for sustainable development of small island [nations],” Joseph Gilbert, Grenada’s minister for works and public utilities and physical development, said earlier this week.
Grenada has agreed to host the 19th annual gathering of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association conference in October next year.

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While providing a forum for experts on regionwide issues, this week’s Caribbean Water and Wastewater Conference and Exhibition at Marriott's Frenchman's Reef and Resort also played matchmaker for environmental groups and local government agencies that could help them with their work.
One such group, the youth club known as the Environmental Rangers, raised eyebrows among officials of the territory’s Department of Planning and Natural Resources when leaders took the floor and touted the group’s efforts with St. Thomas watersheds Thursday.
The Rangers, which include as many as 100 children and teens from local schools, have been playing watchdog by monitoring the water quality of local bays, salt ponds and other waterways as well as documenting the health of local coral reefs.
“If I didn’t come here I wouldn’t have known about their work,” said Anita Nibbs, DPNR’s environmental program manager, after a presentation by Ranger founders at one of the wrap-up sessions Thursday.
“Unless we have meetings like these, we won’t know all of what we need to know,” she said of the Rangers’ most recent work surveying the main gut and making silt barriers for Tutu Bay. “There are still a lot of connections to be made,” she said.
With the right mentoring and by meeting certain DPNR testing requirements, Nibbs said, groups like the Environmental Rangers could receive funding from the Environmental Protection Agency and other federal bodies that must be distributed through DPNR. She promised Environmental Ranger leader Anna Francis that her agency would try to help them apply.
It takes more than the government to protect the environment, she said.
“We have all these wonderful regulations,” Nibbs said, trailing off to concede that there are not enough personnel to enforce the laws already on the books that would protect from the development-driven erosion, garbage and silt that ends up in the islands’ bays, beaches and wetlands.
“So we have to have the watershed groups,” she said. “We have to look to community groups.”
Through the conference, Ranger founder Francis also learned of other upcoming events at which like-minded residents can meet experts and where her club members can present their work and encourage other residents to start similar work in their local bays and beaches.
“The kids usually do the talking,” she said.
The weeklong water conference, which ends Friday, was co-hosted by the territorial Water and Power Authority, the Waste Management Authority, the Governor's Office, the Department of Tourism and the University of the Virgin Islands. Participants have attended workshops and training in sessions in protecting, cleaning and preventing loss in island water sources and systems.
Earlier this week, WAPA’s executive director, Hugo Hodge Jr., said he hoped the conference would result in the formation of a consortium of water experts as a technological advisory body for CARICOM to push water issues to the top of the agenda at the next meeting of the Caribbean Community.
“We believe that an integrated water policy is a critical consideration for sustainable development of small island [nations],” Joseph Gilbert, Grenada's minister for works and public utilities and physical development, said earlier this week.
Grenada has agreed to host the 19th annual gathering of the Caribbean Water and Wastewater Association conference in October next year.