Cdr. Bud Slabbaert

Fans of bottled water pay more than a 4 thousand percent markup to buy a product that’s available practically for free nearly everywhere with the exception of underdeveloped territories. Smart marketing is the reason why so many people willing to buy a product that’s readily available in their own homes. Yet, it appears that Dominica has a problem selling its water which makes one wonder why.

According to the website of Invest Dominica Authority: “There is an emerging market for the export of fresh bulk water from Dominica to water deficit countries in need of fresh water principally for potable use. The fastest growing segment of bottled water industry; spring water, vitamin flavoured water are synonymous with Dominica’s established brand name as Nature Island of the Caribbean. With the main resource readily available in high volumes from both spring and surface sources, the water industry is at the centre of economic expansion.”

And one cannot stop wondering while doing online research. Apparently for almost a decade, there is already a company to market water from Dominica. There is a history of announcements and it almost accumulates to become a mystery or a fairy tale where Princess Dominica fails to kiss the right frogs who might become a Prince, and the frogs just remained frogs.

In November 2009, the media in Dominica and the USA report: “The lush Caribbean island of Dominica will allow an export company to ship billions of gallons of its river water around the globe. The Prime Minister’s signed a deal 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 the permanent secretary of the Ministry of Public Utilities, Energy and Ports. The 10–year license allows Sisserou Water Inc. to collect 3 billion gallons of fresh water annually from the Clyde River.”

At that time, the President of the Colorado company which claims to have Dominican and American shareholders and is registered in Dominica but has its headquarters in Telluride, Colorado, even made a statement in a telephone interview to the media that the company will invest $32 million to build a pipeline, terminal and storage tanks in Dominica’s rugged north. Further stated that the business will generate revenue and jobs for Dominica.

Mind, that a ten-year license signed in 2009, would mean that the license expires in 2019, next year!

According to information by the Secretary of State of Colorado, the company was delinquent as of January 1, 2009. See below the extract of the Colorado State information.

According to the dictionary the word “delinquent” means: “failing in or neglectful of a duty or obligation; guilty of a misdeed or offense”. Take your pick.On February 10, 2012, the Prime Minister said that he is concerned that four years after granting a license to a company to export Dominica’s water, not one bottle of water has been exported out of the island.

A spokesman of the company stated that Dominica could begin shipment of over seven million gallons of water per month by the end of the first quarter of 2012 and that the first phase of shipment of bulk water will target the Caribbean. He made the comment in response to criticisms by the Minister for Water Resource Management that there was still no progress after three years since a license was issued for the shipment of bulk water. He also commented that there has been dialogue with the various ministries on the progress of the shipment of bulk water.

Then the silence around the export of bulk water becomes almost deafening until June 5, 2015 when the Government Information Service, GIS, the Information Arm of the Government, reports that the “Government is discussing exporting Dominica’s bulk water to other countries. The Hon. Minister for Water Resource Management, Reginald Austrie confirmed this at a meeting of Parliament last week. Government and DOWASCO continue to seek opportunities to supply bulk water to neighboring countries and further afield. In this regard, we have invited several businesses and are currently in discussion with at least three firms on the [issue] of bulk water supply. Discussions are at advanced stage and it is hoped that an agreement could be finalized with one of these firms, Arctic Blue Water from Europe, within the not too distant future.”

No more official announcements about Arctic Blue Water on the side of Dominica. However, Arctic Blue Waters, a company headquartered in the UK states on their website: “Arctic Blue Waters has entered into a long-term bulk water supply agreement with Dominica Water and Sewage (DOWASCO), a crown corporation of the Government of Dominica. The island of Dominica, known as the nature isle, still boasts an abundance of good quality fresh water, with loading facilities for bulk water tankers.” But, no announcements on their “news” page where one finds numerous other items.

On August 16, 2016, the Government Information Service, announced: “WATER BOTTLING COMPANY POSSIBLY ON THE CARDS. Dominica may soon benefit from the investment of a foreign company interested in placing the island’s mineral water on the world market. Exactly one week ago, the Hon Prime Minister, Dr Roosevelt Skerrit, revealed that a team of investors would be on island last week to explore the possibility of such a venture.” Thereafter, no follow up information with results by the official information agency, nor what the investment is.

Again silence. until February 2018, a year before the water license of the Colorado/Dominica company would assumedly expire.

The company is seeking a contract from drought- stricken Cape Town. Water problems facing the South African were being seen as an opportunity by a Dominica company to step in and fill the void.  The company had offered up to 500,000,000 liters per week of fresh drinking water” during the period of crisis and stated that the supply of fresh water to Cape Town would be a post-Hurricane Maria economic benefit for Dominica.

Missing information. On September 13, 2017, seven days after hurricane Irma struck Anguilla and six days before Hurricane Maria struck Dominica, a company spokesman announced in the media that it had just negotiated a long-term contract with Anguilla, and the island has indicated its readiness to import bulk-water. No information available in Anguilla. Yet, in February 2018, DNO was able to speak to the company’s Managing Director just before publishing the article a announcing the South Africa offer and he explained that while the Company has not yet made any commercial exporting of water, it has been working on exporting to Antigua and Barbuda and Anguilla, and came “close to doing so”. Thus, no Anguilla long-term contract as suggested five months earlier in 2017.

As for the relief efforts in Cape Town, Coca-Cola promised millions of liters of relief water – the bottles would be clearly marked “not for resale” and would be produced to supply to emergency sites. This initiative is a partnership between CCPB, the local manufacturer and distributor the Coca-Cola Company, the Coca-Cola Foundation and participating suppliers.

Of course, one can now start blame games. One might want to examine track records and credibility and rightfully do so to come to conclusions. One may want to find out what serious investors are and what opportunist are. There is no unfairness in doing so. After all it is not about their interest but rather about the interest of Dominicans. Unless some information is missing or withheld, it looks like the available facts on the table show that between 2009 and now nothing was realized. No, success stories of tankers distributing bulk water. And exploiting Dominica’s fluid gold is still an illusion.

 

Cdr. Bud Slabbaert is a regular contributor to an extensive number of media outlets in the Caribbean from the Bahamas to Curacao to Barbados and various islands in between. Mr. Slabbaert’s background is accentuated by business development, strategic communication, and journalism