Eastern Caribbean Islands Test Ways to Adapt to Climate Change

July 4, 2013


Coastal zones in the Caribbean are among the most vulnerable to climate change

In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, a newly installed desalination plant addresses water scarcity on the island of Bequia, powered by a photovoltaic system. In Dominica, a technical irrigation scheme was implemented and the National Park Management prepared plans to mainstream climate change. In Saint Lucia, a large tourist resort has installed a rain water harvesting and waste water organic load reduction system, and a flagship building was retrofitted to withstand hurricanes.


Coastal zones in the small island states of the Caribbean are among the most vulnerable to impacts of climate change. These impacts (sea level rise, temperature and rainfall variations, and increased hurricane activity) threaten local ecosystems and economies already under stress. Longer drought periods, such as the one registered in 2010 in Saint Vincent, became a critical issue because many of the less developed areas depend on rain as the only source of potable water.

Longer droughts and weather variability also force farmers in Dominica to expand their agricultural frontier, encroaching on protected lands in the national parks and threatening biodiversity. In Saint Lucia, large tourist resorts currently use potable water from the distribution network for non-drinking purposes such as swimming pools, garden irrigation and toilet flushing.

Given these increasingly stressed water scenarios, it becomes a priority to identify alternative and sustainable sources of water. This includes capturing rainwater and harvesting and recycling treated wastewater into an attractive option.


In Saint Vincent and the Grenadines, the project tested a number of small-scale pilot activities. The water supply system involved two basic elements:

  • A sea-water desalination plant to provide freshwater for the target community of Paget Farms.
  • A renewable power generation facility (photovoltaic, the largest to date in the country) to compensate the high energy requirements of the desalination process and reduce operation costs.

The desalinated water is pumped to a water tank and gravity-fed to the community downstream.

In Dominica, the project financed the installation of a pilot irrigation system that supports low-income farmers, providing them with a constant source of water and supporting the organization of a water users’ association, one of the first of its kind in the country.  In this way, by supporting farmers through an irrigation system, they remain on their lands and do not need to open up new areas in the national parks, avoiding damage to biodiversity.

In Saint Lucia, the project engaged with a large tourist facility to test rainwater harvesting for non-drinking purposes. This approach proved to be successful, as it saves costs to the facility and releases an already stressed water supply network.


The goal of the project was to pilot solutions that increase awareness, improve the knowledge base of the three participating countries, and provide experience and lessons to be gradually mainstreamed into programs and plans at national and regional adaptation initiatives. The piloted projects achieved a number of key outcomes:

Saint Vincent and the Grenadines

The sea-water desalinization plant is fully operational, and the Central Water Authority is leading the construction of the distribution system, and also conducting a financial assessment to set consumer fees for the water. The plant has been connected to the electrical grid and has a nominal production capacity of over 60m3/day. More than 200 families from the Paget Farm community will benefit when the distribution system is fully completed.

An 80kW photovoltaic system is operating in Bequia. It is the largest solar system in the country, and is being used the energy utility Saint Vincent Electricity Services, to increase their experience with such systems, with the intention of promoting them at national scale.


The Park Management Plans for Morne Diablotin (over 5 years old) and Morne Trois Pitons (over 10 years old) have been extensively reviewed and climate change issues have been mainstreamed.

Two meteorological stations have been installed in the two national parks and are producing valuable information for park management and agriculture planning.

The Ministry of Agriculture has led the implementation of a pioneer irrigation pilot in the Milton area, benefitting over 10 farmers. The pilot has produced important lessons that will benefit its replication elsewhere.

Saint Lucia

The rainwater harvesting system installed in the resort includes two storage tanks, reducing the resort’s uptake from the main potable water network.

All wastewater produced by the resort is currently being treated and reutilized for garden irrigation, with no outflow to the coast, thus protecting the biodiversity of the area.

The Marchand building, a community hurricane shelter, has been retrofitted to withstand hurricane winds, and has turned into a flagship location showcased by the Ministry of Physical Planning and Environment. All inhabitants of this underprivileged community now benefit from a shelter that is also used as community center.

Global Learning

The implementing agency, Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, has collected lessons learned, gained global knowledge, and has captured this knowledge in technical notes posted on its web pages. 

The project sent two scientists from the University of the West Indies to the Meteorological Research Institute in Japan, where they have been trained in the use of the Earth Simulator, a supercomputer devoted to climate simulation. Both scientists brought back useful results that are currently being used on a number of initiatives towards improvement for climate change models.

Bank Group Contribution

The project was funded through a Global Environment Facility (GEF) Special Program on Adaptation Grant in the amount of US$2.1 million.


Inherent in the project’s design was a multi-country, multi-agency approach which required a high degree of interagency coordination and engagement. The three participating countries, the Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, the Meteorological Research Institute of Japan, and others made cash and in-kind contributions for a total project amount of US$4.3 million.

The Meteorological Research Institute of Japan brought cutting edge knowledge and technology on climate change scenario simulations.

Moving Forward

The Pilot Program for Climate Resilience, recently launched in the region, is the instrument to replicate and scale up approaches tested by the project. Developed in part with the same institutions as the project, the pilot has captured some of the project’s successful approaches, results, and experiences.


The activities primarily focused on impacts of climate change on the global commons (biodiversity, water resources, land degradation, and reduction of CO2 emissions). While benefitting biodiversity and natural resources stewardship, local populations such as farmers in the Milton area of Dominica, over 250 families on the Paget Farm community in Bequia, or the communities around the Marchand building in Saint Lucia, have all benefited from the implemented adaptation measures.

Learn More

The following documents can be found on the implementing agency’s webpage

  • Assessment of Hydro-Meteorological Sensors to Support Dominica’s National Park Management, by Caribbean Institute for Meteorology and Hydrology, September, 2010
  • Future climate for the Caribbean in the late 21st Century using a super-high resolution AGCM at MRI, by Trevor C Hall, September 6-17, 2010.
  • A Study of the Uncertainty in Future Caribbean Climate Using the PRECIS Regional Climate Model, by Abel Centella and Arnoldo Bezanilla, Institute of Meteorology, Cuba & Kenrick R. Leslie Caribbean Community Climate Change Centre, Belize, September 2008
  • Management Strategy for Adaptation to Climate Change - the Morne Diablotin National Park and Marne Trois Pitons National Park World Heritage Site. 2011