Statement To The Nation By Hon. Robert Pickersgill M.P. Minister Of Water, Land, Environment And Climate Change On The Current Water Situation

Photo: JIS Photographer Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill

Story Highlights

  • Inflows into a number of water supply systems are now well below normal. Additionally, rainfall that we had expected during May and June did not materialize.
  • Preliminary rainfall figures for the month of June indicate that Jamaica received only 30% of its normal rainfall and all parishes with the exception of sections of Westmoreland (54%) were in receipt of less than 50% of normal rainfall.
  • Inflows into the Mona Reservoir from the Yallahs and Negro Rivers are now at 4.8Million Gallons per Day, which is among the lowest since the construction of the Yallahs Pipeline in 1986.

My fellow Jamaicans…Good Evening.

Two weeks ago, I made a statement in Parliament outlining the serious situation in regard to our water supplies across the country.  Since that time, the situation has deteriorated considerably in several areas of the island.

The fact is that inflows into a number of water supply systems are now well below normal. Additionally, rainfall that we had expected during May and June did not materialize.

For example, in May, the parish of Clarendon received only 27% of the 30 year normal rainfall while the parishes of Manchester, St. Mary, Portland and St. Thomas all received significantly less than the 30 year normal rainfall.  This drastic reduction of rainfall has continued into the months of June and July.

Preliminary rainfall figures for the month of June indicate that Jamaica received only 30% of its normal rainfall and all parishes with the exception of sections of Westmoreland (54%) were in receipt of less than 50% of normal rainfall. The southern parishes of St. Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St. Catherine, Kingston & St. Andrew and St. Thomas along with St. Mary and Portland were hardest hit.

For example, Clarendon received only 2% of its normal rainfall followed by Manchester 4%, St. Thomas 6%, St. Mary 8% and Kingston and St. Andrew 12%  of their 30 year normal rainfall.

This has significantly reduced the inflows from springs and rivers into several of our facilities islandwide.

Inflows into the Mona Reservoir from the Yallahs and Negro Rivers are now at 4.8Million Gallons per Day,  which is among the lowest since the construction of the Yallahs Pipeline in 1986.  Currently we are receiving no inflows from the Hope River which is dry.

Inflows into the Hermitage Dam currently stand at 6 Million Gallons per Day down from more than 18 Million Gallons per Day during the wet season.

Additionally, many rural water supply systems, especially in the eastern and southern parishes, are also being faced with drought conditions.  Based on reports from the NWC’s senior water production staff, a tally of the affected systems islandwide shows that 120 of the NWC’s 460 systems are affected.

Many Parish Council systems have also declined greatly or dried up entirely.

At the same time, the situation is made even worse because piped water demand has increased by as much as 50% in some locations, since the water is being used for irrigation, fire-fighting, gardening and other purposes for which it was not designed, placing an undue burden on the existing NWC supply.

Fellow Jamaicans, this is a challenge, and it is one that is made worse by higher temperatures and windy conditions, that provide the perfect combination for bush fires, which, given the present water shortage, will be difficult to control and extinguish

Even more troubling are the meteorological projections.  The El Nino weather phenomenon that is presently affecting our weather pattern is projected to continue and will result in no significant increase of rainfall even during the next rainy season, which is from October to November.

At the same time, the global prediction is for this year to be the hottest year on record since 1880, when record keeping began.  Indeed, the month of May was declared the hottest May on record.

Over the years some unscrupulous persons have cut down trees, decimated our watersheds and polluted our water sources.

What this means is that the already serious water supply situation we are experiencing will most likely worsen.

In response, we have re-deployed 40 trucks, several of them to the most critical areas such Clarendon, and our breadbasket parish, St. Elizabeth, where farmers are reeling under the drought. These trucks will continue to service these areas until normal rainfall is restored.

We have also provided an allocation to the parish Councillors and to the Members of Parliament to deal with the trucking of water.

Indeed, year to date, we have expended J$85million on the trucking of water under the Rapid Response Programme.

In addition, Cabinet has approved a submission for additional funds, to facilitate the trucking of water.

My Fellow Jamaicans a sore point for all of us and for the NWC especially at this time, is the issue of leaks and leak repairs.  We have put the staff at the NWC and my Ministry on alert, to rapidly fix the leaks.

As such, we will be improving the capacity to respond by increasing the crews and resources with the aim of rapidly repairing leaks as soon as they come to our attention.

I am imploring all members of the public to report all leaks, and I have given instructions to the NWC to establish two leak hotlines, as well as text messaging services. The Leak Hotline Numbers are 733- 5655, and 733-5656.

We have also received the number for you to text to report leaks.   That number is 838-LEAK (5325). 

We urge you to look out for the numbers in the print and electronic media, and to make good use of them the minute you see any water going to waste   In addition, we are providing you with an email address presidentnwc@gmail.com, which the President of the NWC, Dr. Kingsley Thomas and senior staff at the NWC will  directly access.

The National Water Commission has also initiated a range of Emergency Water Management Measures tailored to meet the specific needs of each area or system. These measures include:-

  • Harnessing additional water for treatment and distribution from new and restored sources;
  • Maximizing abstraction from existing sources and especially groundwater sources;
  • Sharing of water from the least-affected systems with the worst-affected areas wherever possible;
  • Encouragement of conservation through public education, statements as well as  advertising in all media; and
  • Expediting ongoing water supply improvement projects.

 

 

In addition, the Prohibition Notice  that I announced two weeks ago in Parliament, which makes it illegal for persons to waste water, or to use excessive amounts of the NWC’s supplied water in drought-affected areas, remains in effect.

The Rural Water Supply Limited will also be continuing its programme of upgrading and rehabilitating the existing storage tanks of which there are 445 islandwide. Already we have completed just over 70 of the 282 catchment tanks islandwide.  In addition, it is our intention to repair 100 systems under the Tank and Pump Programme.

I have said repeatedly that we must re- embrace rainwater harvesting as an integral part of our water security efforts now and for the future. I firmly believe that this is the route we must take, in the face of climate change impacts which will intensify drought conditions.

Rainwater harvesting systems for developments will be enshrined within the building regulations.

To that end, Rainwater Harvesting Policy guidelines are being prepared by my ministry, which will be an integral consideration in the planning approval process.

My fellow Jamaicans, I have just outlined for you, the measures we are taking to decisively deal with the water challenges that much of the country now faces.

While my Ministry and the Government make every effort to deal with the immediate water supply challenges facing us, I am asking for your continued cooperation and understanding during these difficult dry months.  I urge you to conserve on your use of water at all times, but especially at this time.   EVERY DROP COUNTS!!! 

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