JIS News

The diversion of water to meet the needs of the growing Municipality of Portmore, has created shortages in the communities of Seivwright Gardens and Waltham Gardens, as well as other areas off the Washington Boulevard.
This was revealed in Parliament on Tuesday (Oct. 7), by Minister of Water and Housing, Donald Buchanan. He was answering questions posed by Opposition Spokesman on Housing, Andrew Holness.
On the question of why sections of these areas have been without regular water supply since 1997, Minister Buchanan explained that those areas were being served by the Rio Cobre system via the Ferry Booster Station, but in recent years, as the Portmore community expanded, more and more water coming to Kingston from the Rio Cobre had to be diverted into the dormitory community.
The shortfall in supply, he said, had been exacerbated by the unacceptably high percentage of unaccounted-for-water (UFW) in these areas, noting that it was well known that UFW comprised leaks, water theft and high consumption related to flat rates, which did not encourage conservation.
The Water and Housing Minister said that while the National Water Commission (NWC) had been addressing the leaks within the limits of its resources, other short term measures, such as valving, which was usually carried out at nights, could not be attempted in these areas, because of the security risk to NWC employees. He pointed out that the poor payment record in these communities also affected their ability to make improvements there.
On the question of what current actions were being taken and the future plans to permanently correct the problem, Minister Buchanan equated what was happening in the two communities of Seivwright and Waltham Gardens with what obtained in many urban areas, citing for example, the age of the infrastructure, which was so old that simply repairing leaks would not have the required effect.
What is really required, he stressed, was mains replacement, pointing out that it was for this very reason why the NWC had applied to the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR) for a tariff increase, of which $500 million would be used to commence a comprehensive rehabilitation of existing systems to improve service reliability.
“These two communities will receive priority attention when the tariff is granted,” the Water and Housing Minister assured, but expressed concern that their ability to do meaningful work there, was contingent on the security of NWC workers.
Minister Buchanan said he was hopeful that through the social intervention component of the crime initiative, they would be able to do some of that work, but pointed out that notwithstanding the tariff increase, the matter of payments of bills, current and arrears by the citizens of these communities, remained a matter of concern, and that the NWC would have to collect, even as the improvements were done. He said that mains replacement would provide short-term improvements. With reference to the long-term plan, Minister Buchanan said the NWC was currently executing the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA) Water Supply and Improvement Project, under which some 8.5 million gallons per day of new water would be supplied to Spanish Town and Portmore. “This will enable us to take back the Rio Cobre water that is currently being diverted to Portmore and augment the supply to areas, such as Seivwright Gardens and Waltham Gardens,” he added.

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