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Story Highlights

  • The National Water Commission (NWC) will undertake development of a $1 billion artificial groundwater system at Innswood, St. Catherine.
  • The system will better enable the NWC to protect and sustain potable water supply resources in the Kingston Metropolitan Area and St. Catherine.
  • A contract to build the facility was signed during a brief ceremony at the NWC’s corporate offices in New Kingston on July 18.

The National Water Commission (NWC) will undertake development of a $1 billion artificial groundwater system at Innswood, St. Catherine.

The system will better enable the NWC to protect and sustain potable water supply resources in the Kingston Metropolitan Area and St. Catherine.

A contract to build the facility was signed during a brief ceremony at the NWC’s corporate offices in New Kingston on July 18.

Among the signatories were: Water, Land, Environment, and Climate Change Minister, Hon. Robert Pickersgill; Jamaica Country Representative for the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB), which is funding the development, Therese Turner-Jones; Managing Director of the engineering firm, M and M Jamaica Limited, which will construct the facility, Don Mullings; and Managing Director of the project’s supervising agency, Rural Water Supply Limited, Audley Thompson.

The groundwater recharge project, being implemented over 15months, involves installation of infrastructure to increase and improve groundwater quantity and quality in the Lower Rio Cobre Limestone Aquifer of the St. Catherine plains.

This will be undertaken by treating and discharging surplus surface water into sinkholes and infiltration wells, in order to sustain the process of extracting water from wells located in areas north-west of the parish capital, Spanish Town.

The project, which is slated to begin shortly, entails: construction of a raw-water intake structure and facility capable of treating eight million gallons per day, as well as inlet structures to two infiltration wells and three sinkholes; and installation of 2.1 km of pipelines

An artificial aquifer or groundwater recharge entails the process of introducing and storing excess water in an underground aquifer, thereby making abstraction more sustainable.

The quality of the water is improved by measures such as decreasing water salinity by recharging the aquifer with better quality water.

In his remarks the signing, Mr. Pickersgill underscored the project’s timeliness in light of decreases in the average level of inflows into a number of water systems due to the prevailing drought, particularly in the regions to benefit.

This, he said, means “we cannot rely solely on surface water to supply the needs of our growing population.”

“It is my understanding that the sections of the country that are served by groundwater are far better off in the present drought situation than the areas served primarily by surface water. And so, this aquifer recharge project is absolutely vital to the water security of St. Catherine and to the Kingston Metropolitan Area,” he said.

Mr. Pickersgill explained that the treatment facility will treat the raw water from the Old Harbour branch of the irrigation canal through a series of settling basins which will remove sediments, pollutants, and other particles.

This, he said, will ensure that the water is of good quality before recharging the aquifer through the series of sink holes and deep-wells.

The Minister further noted that the project’s implementation will provide several anticipated benefits, including the potential for an increase in revenue from the additional water available to supply customers.

Mr. Pickersgill stressed that access to safe, potable water is critical to the health and well-being of Jamaicans, as well as achievement of the country’s sustainable development goals, and the overarching objectives of the Vision 2030 – National Development Plan.

 “Within the context of the challenges experienced in many parts of the country with the drought conditions, water supply projects like this artificial aquifer, or groundwater recharge, are critical to the development of our communities and our nation,” the Minister said.