I was being driven to Ocho Rios a few days ago, and the route was somewhat wet with rain. As we drove by the famed Rio Cobre I stopped at Flat Bridge to take the view. That river was roaring, and agitated; the rain had caused it to swell.
Looking at the water pipeline just over the bridge, I thought: Why is the pipeline so small? It may be difficult to increase the diameter of the pipe or install a larger one, so why not an additional one, or two pipes to move more water into Kingston. Would this deplete and deny other users? The amount of water I saw, and its roar and speed assured me, that at this particular time there was no shortage in Kingston or its environs.
As far as I understand, Jamaica functions from 190 million imperial gallons of potable water per day from 160 wells, 116 river systems, and 147 springs island-wide (Basil Fernandez). This calculates to 719 million litres per day. The most current usage or consumption is around 500 million litres a day, so theoretically we have enough, assuming the seasons follow normally. October’s rains have been significant, island-wide.
There is always the threat of contamination from industrial waste, sea leaks into the aquifers, and human use in waste disposal, and in washing clothes. These factors are tending to increase, but there is a reduced production in Mining and Alumina Production so the levels of contaminants have been the same over the past three years.
Over the next five years, or probably as soon as possible, water sources needs to be more organized and controlled; and consumption monitored.
This could be tackled in the following ways:
a). More use of recycled water, especially in irrigation.
b). Improvement of water storage, so that waste by excess drainage may be reduced.
As it is, Jamaica is short of water some times of the year, and other times there is a plethora of water in most systems. The places of shortage have been identified as Kingston & St. Andrew, and Portmore, and this usually May to August.
Approximately two years ago former president of the NWC E.G. Hunter made a comment on enlargement of the reservoir and dams, Hermitage and Mona. He mentioned that the cost of any rehabilitation of existing storage was not worth the cost; and that the rest of the Island is generally self sustaining in water, Moving the water from source to usage areas was what was necessary to alleviate problems.
At the present time NWC relies on its water trucks to fill the need, and the solution I would suggest is piping water from St. Ann and St. James to the nearest points on the System which can be transferred. This is expensive no doubt, but not as costly as new reservoirs, or constant dredging of Hermitage.
I note that a significant amount of bottled water is available in the supermarket and stores in Jamaica, and I have no problems if the source is Jamaican water. If not, it is a waste of money, and imports of water should be ceased.
Finally, NWC has gotten a substantive increase in rate. We need to monitor that this increase is not frittered away as before, by ensuring the designated Minister to monitor all that is happening with this utility.