Jamaica Observes World Water Day on March 22


Reducing the effects of flooding is on the agenda as Jamaica and the rest of the world observe World Water Day on Monday, March 22. Jamaica is often affected by severe flooding and frequent flash flooding usually with “insufficient lead time to effect an adequate mitigative response,” said Errol Douglas, Hydrologist at the Water Resources Authority (WRA).
Mr. Douglas, who was addressing the JIS Think Tank on Wednesday, March 17 outlined that on average, “there is at least one disastrous flood every four years…Since the year1800, 54 major floods have occurred in Jamaica causing 273 fatalities and economic losses totalling over $2 billion.”
The theme for World Water Day is ‘Water and Disasters’ and while celebrations in Jamaica are low-keyed this year, the water agencies in the Ministry of Water and Housing are of the view that informing the public about water-related disasters and strategies to deal with them, is top priority. This is especially important now as the island is experiencing a drought and the hurricane season starts on June 1.
The key message for World Water Day 2004 is mitigating the impacts of water-related disasters and reducing risk and vulnerability through improved warning and preparedness to make development sustainable, informed Mr. Douglas.
“We will be looking to implement projects that will allow people at the local, national and regional levels to be better prepared and be aware of the impacts of these hazards and take precautions so that they can save life and property,” he told JIS News.
The WRA is a water resources management agency and one of its responsibilities is to provide technical support to the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), which is the agency responsible for matters dealing with disasters. The emphasis now is on flooding, since this continues to affect a great portion of Jamaica’s population and the affected communities are continually seeking methods to reduce losses.
The WRA assists in the development of flood warning systems, provides data on flooding island wide and develops flood plain maps for various vulnerable communities. The Authority also assists in carrying out other mitigative works related to water-borne diseases, Mr. Douglas outlined.
This year, World Water Day celebrations will focus on activities being undertaken by the Government to reduce the risk of water-related disasters and will include an exhibition at the offices of the WRA highlighting flood mapping and flood warning systems.
A flood warning system is a system of rain gauges and river gauges that collect rainfall and river flow data during a flood. In this system, the relationship between rainfall and run-off is assessed to determine the ‘alert level’, which is the level at which the community is expected to be flooded. Flood plain maps, meanwhile, are used to highlight areas that are vulnerable to flooding, or that are affected by flooding to the extent where it shows all the areas that are inundated by a flood of a particular return period.

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