St. Kitts and Nevis

Explore historical and projected climate data, climate data by sector, impacts, key vulnerabilities and what adaptation measures are being taken. Explore the overview for a general context of how climate change is affecting St. Kitts and Nevis.


St. Kitts and Nevis appears to be addressing adaptation to climate change through participation in a relatively low number of regional projects. Such regional projects include the Caribbean Planning for Adaptation to Climate Change (CPACC) Project (1997-2001). The CPACC project involved the formation of economic/regulatory proposals in St. Kitts and Nevis in order to demonstrate the design and utility of economic and regulatory approaches in coastal and marine resources management in response to threats of sea level rise. The successor of the CPACC project was the Mainstreaming Adaptation to Climate Change: Caribbean Community (MACC) project (2003-2009). The MACC project components aimed to build in-country capacity to formulate and analyze adaptation policy options and finalize sectoral adaptation strategies for participating countries, as well as to strengthen data collection and information access through technical assistance and capacity building. The National Adaptation Strategy (NAS) was adopted for the period 2006-2013 in response to the closure of the sugar cane industry in 2005. It identified environmental management as an integral component of overall national development. The focus areas of the NAS included, among others, agriculture, coastal zone and water. Another focus was to reduce vulnerability and promote sustainable growth of the economy. The country’s Nationally Determined Contribution (NDC, 2016) states that it will develop comprehensive resilience plans for the water, agriculture, and coastal infrastructure sectors as part of their overall adaptation plan. 

Adaptation Options for Key Sectors

  • Create and service a National Drought Surveillance System, a National Early Warning System for Agricultural Drought and a National Early Warning System for Hurricanes.
  • Create and service a National Climate Forecast System with the capabilities of producing forecasts for periods of 1-12 months to adequately inform farmers of expected weather conditions.
  • Education, training and technical assistance: Farmers should be educated on best practices such as terracing to slow run-off and aid infiltration, mulching to aid moisture retention and other soil and water conservation measures.
  • Address knowledge gaps in agricultural technology and provide technical support in hydroponics, greenhouse technologies and drip irrigation systems in order to build farmers’ capacities to deal with periods of low rainfall and water availability and other unfavorable climatic conditions.
  • Rationalize use of water and soil resources.
  • Formulate emergency plans to deal with the effects of drought.
  • Construct dams to tap water to enable growth and availability of local foods during the dry season.
  • Implement policies to control deforestation of hillsides and overgrazing by livestock, which accelerates soil erosion and depletes agricultural soils.
  • Continue the existing collaboration between researchers attached to the Taiwanese Mission in St. Kitts and Nevis and decision makers and technicians in agriculture. This can facilitate the development of projects relating to agriculture and climate change, ensuring that the knowledge produced is both useful and used by local farmers.
  • Diversify the product base: The St. Kitts and Nevis’ Adaptation Strategy in Response to the new EU Sugar Regime 2006-2013 outlines a clear action plan to address agricultural diversification. A competitiveness study identified 4 crops as alternatives to sugarcane; pumpkin, peanut, sweet potato and onion, however, while these crops were shown to be economically competitive, their capacities to withstand potential future climatic conditions have not yet been assessed.
  • Monitor aquifers. Collect data to monitor water quality and quantity and to protect against over-abstraction. 
  • Implement water restrictions. Metering combined with controlling the water levels in tanks can be effective as a water conservation measure in times of drought and low precipitation. 
  • While 80-90% of Nevisians can capture water, using cisterns for storing the rainwater, only 5% of residents in St. Kitts can do the same. As such, education on rainwater harvesting should be promoted in St. Kitts. 
  • Establish public desalination plants. A privately owned reverse osmosis plant exists in St. Kitts. However, desalination is not part of the public water supply system due to the energy intensive nature of the desalination process and high energy costs. 
  • Identify alternative groundwater sources. All of the groundwater resources in St. Kitts are sourced from coastal aquifers, which are prone to saltwater contamination and sedimentation caused by sea level rise, storm surge and flooding. Nevis, however, has begun to utilize bedrock drilling at higher elevations over coastal aquifers to counter this threat and to exploit new freshwater sources. Efforts should be made to map all underground freshwater lenses using GIS and satellite imagery. 
  • Maximize sustainable use of groundwater resources. There are opportunities to exploit an estimated 50% of groundwater resources in St. Kitts which have not been tapped into. Additionally, the excess capacity of existing wells can be tapped into during conditions of drought. 
  • Raise awareness of the need for water conservation at both the household and hotel levels. 
  • Mainstream water considerations into land-use plans and building codes. 
  • Develop a plan for Integrated Water Resources Management (IWRM) that includes:
    • Development of measures to protect aquifers from surface contamination. This would include re-vegetation of hill slopes and implementation of a comprehensive reforestation program to reduce erosion and protect water quality from sediments. Additionally, hydrological risk zones and groundwater recharge areas should be identified and protected. 
  • Develop and maintain water infrastructure to reduce vulnerability during drought events and after major storms and hurricanes.
    • Develop computer models of groundwater flow to account for the impact of sea level rise. 

Gaps and Needs

  • Agriculture: In view of the ecological, social and economic significance of sugar cane to St. Kitts, additional research is urgently required into the impacts of climate change on sugar cane cultivation. Future research should draw upon experiences of how local farmers already adapt to weather variability and extreme events as a reference point for adaptation to the uncertain and changing conditions of the future. The four crops identified in the competitiveness study by Edwards & Jacque (2008), as alternatives to sugarcane, need to be assessed on their vulnerabilities to climate change. These crops can be used to model the impact of climate change on crop production with adaptation measures (such as stress tolerant varieties and improved crop management) and without adaptation measures. A land resource analysis (LRA) project funded by the Department for International Development (DFID) showed that the current climatic conditions in St. Kitts are suitable for a wide variety of crops. However, another LRA should be conducted that takes into consideration projected future climatic conditions and their suitability for a range of crops.
  • Tourism:There has been the failure to quantify the significance of drought effects on tourism and to assess the adaptive capacity of the tourism sector to sea level rise (SLR). More detailed analysis of the impacts of SLR for major tourism resorts, critical beach assets and supporting infrastructure (e.g. transportation) is needed to accurately assess the implications for inundation and erosion protection. Determining the secondary and tertiary economic impacts of damages to the tourism sector and possible adaptation strategies should be a priority for future research. There is an important need to investigate the response of international tourists and the private sector to the impacts of coastal erosion to test adaptation strategies in the tourism sector.
  • Water: A thorough analysis of drainage basins on the islands needs to be carried out in order to identify more appropriate boundaries for water resources and drought management.
  • Economic analyses: There is a need for economic analysis comparing likely savings in averted losses with likely lost revenue due to postponement of planned development due to flooding. Nevis has had limited studies on the economic costs and benefits of disaster risk reduction. The government, local resort owners and local building authorities need to collaborate with members of the research community to develop a cost benefit analysis of coastal protection. This will assist decision-makers with existing problems regardless of the future outcomes of climate change. By completing a cost-benefit analysis, decision makers will be able to identify the best adaptation options to adopt and can begin to move forward in reducing the vulnerability of settlements and infrastructure in vulnerable areas.
  • At a glance:
    • Lack of an appropriate legislative framework for climate change mitigation and adaptation and weak enforcement of existing environmental legislation.
    • Lack of institutional cooperation and collaboration within institutions and between the two islands.
    • Inadequate or ineffective coastal zone management policies.
    • Lack of applied research and technology.
    • Weak institutional capacity for climate change; absence of a comprehensive plan to deal with climate change.
    • Lack of adequate resources (financial, technical and human) from government, regional and international agencies, non governmental organizations (NGOs), community-based organizations and civil society.
  • Given the frequency of the passage of hurricanes over St. Kitts and Nevis in recent years, there is the need for effective emergency response, planning, consistent coordination and liaison among government agencies, response agencies and organisations and community support groups.
  • The Planning Unit and other government agencies, including Electricity and Water Departments, the Department of Agriculture, Lands and Housing are expected to assist the National Emergency Management Agency (NEMA) in coping with adverse disaster situations. However, most of these institutions are severely under-staffed and lack equipment and financial resources.
  • The approach to planning, research and data management with respect to drought is ad hoc. The correct orientation and a commitment to drought impact mitigation, including adequate resource allocation and training of selected staff, are required.
  • While early warning systems include meteorological with respect to the tracking of hurricanes, not much progress has been made in drought surveillance and other early warning systems such as for flooding.
  • Risk mapping has been completed but building code enforcement still has limitations.
  • St. Kitts’ and Nevis’ National Disaster Management Council, which is responsible for formalizing the institutional arrangements for disaster mitigation and management needs significant institutional strengthening.
  • While the lead disaster management agency in St. Kitts and Nevis is NEMA, Nevis has its own agency, the Nevis Disaster Management Department. This improves local actions but poses a challenge to funding allocation and the need for standardized action in disaster risk reduction in the country.
  • NGOs concerned with environmental issues in St. Kitts and Nevis are faced with problems of insufficient financing, lack of concrete structure of plans or group goals and objectives, lack of awareness and commitment, lack of human resources and political and legal obstacles.
  • Post-disaster mitigation projects following Hurricane Lenny and Hurricane Georges specifically, aimed at advancing disaster response and preparedness as well as improving building and construction techniques and the management of shelters (DOE, 2001). Progress has so far been slow since development(s) which were introduced a decade ago did not respond to coastal setbacks and so still pose threats to human safety and the economic viability of their area.
  • To date, no formal legislation for disaster risk reduction is in place apart from the contributions of the national code.
  • There are no legally declared Marine Protected Areas (MPA).
  • The Development Control and Planning Act No. 14 of 2000, section 26(2) of 2006 makes provision for the use of Environmental Impact Assessments (EIAs) as a tool that may be utilized to assess the implications of climate change adaptation strategies from socio-economic and environmental perspectives. However, a lack of training and equipment for properly conducting EIAs constrain the effective use of this tool in Nevis.
  • Current coastal set-back regulations need to be reassessed in light of new sea level rise projections to ensure that new developments are not built in coastal areas.
  • The Nevis Water Services Department is severely limited by inadequate data collection and storage. Information that needs to be collected include future water expectations and the current capacity of freshwater reserves. This which will serve as a baseline to inform the investment that will be required to increase the freshwater producing capacity of the country.
  • Data needs to be developed to accurately predict the gap in time between recovery from meteorological/agricultural drought and the replenishment of water to average levels.
  • In addition to coastal erosion maps, additional investigations of seasonal erosion and accretion patterns should be carried out for guiding the development of a rotation system for coastal sand mining.
  • At present, there are significant aspects of planning and development activities with regard to disaster risk reduction that are not informed by current data. The inclusion of a timeline on which vulnerability and hazard assessments are required to be conducted must therefore be better enforced.
  • Rain gauges are present in Nevis, but often data is only collected from one gauge; thus, data may not be representative of the entire island. Furthermore, measurements of rainfall in the upper parts of the ghauts and of soil saturation levels need to be made.