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Stronger After the Storm: Safe Water for the Bahamas 

As Hurricane Dorian hovered over the Bahamas, its 185 mph winds churned up seawater and created a 20-foot storm surge that contaminated wells and freshwater sources. Though surrounded by ocean, much of the nation was without a source of safe water.   

Hurricane Dorian, one of the largest Category 5 Atlantic hurricanes on record, left more than 70,000 people homeless. 

With the help of partners like you, Water Mission responded immediately in the wake of this disaster. We installed four reverse osmosis (RO) systems to meet the urgent need for safe water. Designed by Water Mission partner, Parker Hannifin, these systems use a specialized water purification process to filter saltwater before it is treated. To date, the RO systems have supplied nearly 2 million gallons of clean, safe water for the people of the Bahamas.  

We recently completed the installation of a fifth RO system at Rand Memorial Hospital in Freeport, Grand Bahama. The hospital is the country’s second-largest public health facility, caring for more than 280 patients each day. When Hurricane Dorian struck, the facility was left without safe water. Doctors and nurses struggled to provide treatment for their sick and injured patients, just when residents most needed medical care.  

Our safe water solutions are built to be resilient and reliable in the event of future disasters. Concrete platforms and steel enclosures, for example, protect the systems against flood waters and storm winds. 

Water Mission delivered a unique solution that not only ensures safe water today but safeguards the hospital’s water source in the event of future disasters. The dual RO system produces approximately 86,000 gallons of safe water each day—more than enough to meet the hospital’s needs.  

Now, every tap and faucet at Rand Memorial Hospital supplies safe, drinkable water. Additionally, a drive-through public access point will serve safe water to people in the community.   

Even before the storm, the hospital’s water source was not always reliable. Doctors and nurses couldn’t count on having potable water to wash their hands or use for other important tasks.  

“We’ve always been challenged with supplying water for the functions of the hospital,” said Rand Memorial Hospital Administrator Sharon Williams. Now that the RO system provides a constant source of safe water, that burden has been lifted.  

Hospital Administrator Sharon Williams conducts a tour for Reward Wells (Minister of Health), Catherine Weech (Director of Public Hospitals Authority), and the Honorable Hubert Minnis (Prime Minister).

“The fact that we now have a water reservoir on our compound means that in all situations, we can have purified water to the hospital system,” Williams says. 

Water Mission has taken steps to ensure that the system remains functional when the next hurricane or other disaster strikes the Bahamas. The container-based RO system is elevated above flood level and can intake from multiple sources, using water from both ground wells and the local utility system.  

The storm surge Hurricane Dorian created contained nearly eight times the salinity level of normal seawater. The RO system we installed at Rand Memorial Hospital treats saltwater with high levels of salinity, making it robust enough to function in the aftermath of powerful storms. 

Water Mission staff ensure local system operators have in-person, best-in-class training on system operation and maintenance.

“When we responded to the need for safe water following Hurricane Dorian, we did so with an eye toward long-term solutions that would serve people in the event of future emergencies,” said Mark Baker, director of disaster response at Water Mission. 

Water Mission designs and implements safe water solutions that leave communities stronger and more resilient in the face of future challenges. Your support fuels disaster response around the world. Thanks to your generosity, those rebuilding their lives after Hurricane Dorian now have consistent access to safe water. They also have the peace of mind that, when the next disaster strikes, their water source will remain useable.  

Learn more about how you can support Water Mission’s disaster response efforts at watermission.org/get-involved/ 

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