Small Caribbean Island to Export Billions of Gallons of Fresh Water

The island of Dominica will begin shipping billions of gallons of its river water to parched countries.

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DAVID McFADDEN,
Associated Press Writer

SAN JUAN, Puerto Rico—The lush but poor Caribbean island of Dominica will allow an export company to ship billions of gallons of its river water to parched countries around the globe, officials said Saturday.

Prime Minister Roosevelt Skerrit's Cabinet signed a deal Thursday with a Colorado company to collect drinking water from the volcanic island's interior and ship it to countries as far away as the Middle East, said Lucien Blackmoore, permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Utilities, Energy and Ports.

The 10-year license allows Sisserou Water Inc. to collect 3 billion gallons (11 billion liters) of fresh water annually from the Clyde River, Blackmoore said.

He said studies found extracting the water will not harm islanders or damage the delicate ecological mix of Dominica, a tropical island of 71,000 people about 30 miles (45 kilometers) long and 16 miles (25 kilometers) wide. The country brands itself as the Caribbean's "Nature Island."

One of the company's four directors is former Cabinet minister Atherton Martin, who in 1998 won a Goldman Environmental Prize for protecting Dominica from being despoiled by a major copper mine. Martin did not answer telephone calls Saturday.

Sisserou, which has Dominican and American shareholders, is registered in Dominica but has its headquarters in Telluride, Colorado. In a telephone interview from Telluride, Sisserou president Tim Jilek said the company will invest $32 million to build a pipeline, terminal and storage tanks in Dominica's rugged north.

"This is an island that gets 300 inches (760 centimeters) of rain each year, and the water comes out totally clean," Jilek said, adding that the business will generate revenue and jobs for Dominica.

Jilek said the company has had early discussions with potential clients from other Caribbean nations, Florida's Miami-Dade County and the Middle Eastern countries of Yemen and Qatar.

A few people in Dominica are expressing concerns.

"I am not a scientist, but I'm a little skeptical because it sounds like a huge amount of water from the river, and because it has not been discussed with the public," said Bernard Wiltshire, former acting attorney general and founder of the island's Waitukubuli Ecological Foundation.

The deal with Sisserou is one of several ways in which island officials say they will tap into Dominica's natural resources to boost the economy.

Earlier this month, Skerrit said Dominica plans to export bottled water to Asia and sell electricity to its neighbors after a two-year study found the island has underground sources that produce more than 20 million gallons (75 million liters) of water a day.

He said the island's geothermal resources could support up to four power plants capable of producing 30 megawatts of energy each. Dominica could sell the power to the nearby French Caribbean islands of Guadeloupe and Martinique via submarine cables, possibly by 2013, Skerrit said.

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On the Web:

Sisserou Water Inc: http://sisserouwater.com