The value of water resources: Morne Trois Pitons National Park (Dominica)

Ecosystems provide a number of key ecosystem services related to the quantity and quality of water, as well as the purification, detoxification and the protection of water supplies. These water resources play a vital role in our lives, allowing us to meet our basic needs to drink, wash and farm, as well as to generate electricity, provide income and build our homes. Due to the scale at which water resources are generated and utilised, a wide range of groups from local populations to national and regional scales benefit from these services; in this case study a number of these services will be defined and their impacts on human well-being described through the examination of Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

Ecosystems provide a number of key ecosystem services related to the quantity and quality of water, as well as the purification, detoxification and the protection of water supplies. These water resources play a vital role in our lives, allowing us to meet our basic needs to drink, wash and farm, as well as to generate electricity, provide income and build our homes. Due to the scale at which water resources are generated and utilised, a wide range of groups from local populations to national and regional scales benefit from these services; in this case study a number of these services will be defined and their impacts on human well-being described through the examination of Morne Trois Pitons National Park.

 

Key Messages

- World Heritage sites can provide water resources that significantly contribute towards human well-being through providing water to: allow basic subsistence needs to be met; increase agricultural production through permitting irrigation; and generate electricity through powering hydroelectric generators.

- Additionally, water resources can enhance tourism by water-based activities, thus indirectly allowing a population to generate an income from the water resources

- These water resources have a wide range of beneficiaries that due to the transboundary nature of water resources can be from a local, regional, or even national level.

- Often the direct beneficiaries of these water services live outside the boundaries of the World Heritage site itself.

- Maintaining water-related services requires careful planning given the large size of watersheds and the many factors that can influence water quality.

Location and World Heritage designation

The Morne Trois Pitons National Park is located on the southern end of the mountainous island of Dominica (UNEP-WCMC, 2011b). Dominica is one of the Windward Islands of the Caribbean  and part of a submerged chain of volcanoes known as the Antillean chain (UNEP-WCMC, 2011b; UNESCO, 2014f) formed as part of ongoing subduction of the Caribbean continental plate under the North and South Atlantic tectonic plates.

Taking its name from the three-peaked basaltic remnants of a volcano rising over 1,400m (UNEP-WCMC, 2011b), Morne Trois Pitons national park covers approximately 6,900 Hectares (ha) (Edwards, 2011b). The landscape is dominated in terms of its physical attributes by steep mountain sides, deep incised valleys and glacis slopes (UNESCO, 2014f). The national park in addition to containing four of the islands seven mountain ranges, is also home to three lakes of regional importance, the Freshwater, Boeri and the Boiling Lake whose water temperature is an average 95°C and which is the second largest such lake in the World (UNEP-WCMC, 2011b). Also of note is the locally named "Valley of Desolation" a large naturally formed amphitheatre where sulphurous fumaroles, steam vents, hot springs and mud pots bubble up through the ground (UNEP-WCMC, 2011b).

Designated a World Heritage site in 1997, under criteria (vii) and (x) (UNESCO, 2014h), the park is home to large, highly scenic, tracts of the most extensive almost undisturbed tropical forest in the Lesser Antilles and contains the headwaters of most of the major streams and rivers in the southern half of the island (UNEP-WCMC, 2011b).

Of the 72,000 strong population of Dominica, officially none live within the boundaries of the national park (Edwards, 2011b), although many indirectly benefit through the provisioning of water resources which will be discussed in due course.

Water resources

In terms of the water related benefits that the site contributes to, examination of literature has shown that the site contributes significantly to the providing and securing of water resources at local, regional and national scales due to the transboundary nature of these water resources.

The combination of topology, geology and climate has meant that the headwaters of most of the major streams and rivers in the southern half of the island are within the confines of the site. These resources are relied on in order to meet the potable water demands of the island as a whole, with it being estimated by Edwards, (2011) that 60% of Dominica's water supply demand is met by these waters. In addition to supplying basic needs in terms of potable drinking water, water resources are also utilised for cooking, bathing, fishing, washing, as well as farming and irrigation (Drigo, 2001).

In addition to meeting the water supply needs of the population, the water resources generated by the site are utilised by the Dominican Electricity Services (DOMLEC) to generate hydroelectricity. Three hydroelectric plants currently exist, all of which are located outside the boundaries of the national park on the Roseau River Watershed, but are driven directly from water collected in the national park (Edwards, 2011b). Together these hydroelectric sites generate 27 gigawatt hours (gwh) a year, accounting for an approximate 30% of Dominica's national production (DOMLEC, 2013).

Further to supplying potable water and a means to generate electricity, the water resources that the site provides also benefit the population through facilitating tourism (Edwards, 2011b). A number of the key tourist attractions in the site are water based from the boiling lake through to the numerous waterfalls and lakes. The presence of these tourist attractions, attracting over 84,000 visitors in 2009 (Edwards, 2011b) generates income through the sale of ecotourism passes, and the generation of jobs, for example as guides. In addition to tourism, the site is used recreationally by the local population. Swimming, for example, takes place in a number of locations - the Emerald Pool, Freshwater and Boeri Lakes and the numerous rivers (Edwards, 2011b).