JIS News

Managing Director of the Water Resources Authority (WRA), Basil Fernandez, has pointed out that the floodwaters affecting some sections of St. Ann for the last six months would continue to affect those areas for some time yet.
Speaking with JIS News following a tour of the flooded areas last week, where he and a team of geologists from the WRA examined the area and collected data, Mr. Fernandez informed that the water table was full and there was no time frame on when the water would recede.
In addition, persistent heavy rains have been causing an even greater rise in the water level. “For one week we had no rise in the flood levels in the Moneague area, it pretty much stabilised.
However, we have been getting some heavy rains up there since last week Friday, brought in by the cold front. Until we get a cessation of rainfall, where we are able to stabilise the peak, then we can’t tell exactly how long it will take for that water to drain off to the White River or to the ground water table,” Mr. Fernandez pointed out.
The two areas in the Moneague basin that are flooded are east of Moneague close to Riverhead and the section near a small township called Clapham. The flooding in these areas has resulted from the high levels of rainfall that have been affecting the island, particularly since July 2005, with the passage of hurricanes Dennis, Emily and then Wilma, in October.
“This rainfall has fully recharged the limestone aquifer in the region, and has led to very high flows at the Rio Hoe Spring, which feeds the main Moneague depression. This, along with the rise in the groundwater table, has therefore flooded large areas of the Moneague basin,” Mr. Fernandez explained.
According to the Managing Director, the process of recharging aquifers is a natural and normal process, whereby water that has been withdrawn or moved out of the aquifer is put back, often via rainfall. Continuing, he noted that because of the permeability of limestone, this aquifer is easily recharged, as has happened in Moneague.
“The limestone aquifer itself is fully saturated and the groundwater table is extremely high, so there is no possibility of any vertical movement out of the basin,” he continued.
The authorities and residents therefore just have to wait for ‘Mother Nature’ to do her work, he said.In the short term, the WRA has been assisting the residents of the area to cope with the flooding, while meetings will be convened with the Member of Parliament for the area, Aloun Assamba, as well as representatives of the Office of Disaster Preparedness and Emergency Management (ODPEM), to discuss the situation and determine the next course of action.
“We looked at some simple things that can be done, using marl and other materials to act as ‘burms’ along low-lying areas of the roadway, which has been flooded. Roadway areas, which are now being encroached upon by the rising water will get some reprieve, as the ‘burms’ will keep the water out, and will allow free access into and out of communities for the citizens,” Mr. Fernandez informed JIS News.
For the long term, he pointed out that the WRA’s recent data collection exercise in the flooded communities would inform future development. However, alternative arrangements might have to be made for some residents, who were more affected than others.
“At Clapham…this is an area, which has never been flooded before. We have no history of flooding in that depression, so this is something totally new,” he said. He added that the authorities would have to look at those houses that were built within the depression with a view to relocating them and not rebuilding in the same area. “The other houses are on the surrounding hill and are quite safe,” he noted.
Meanwhile, Mr. Fernandez cautioned residents to stay out of the floodwaters as outhouses and latrines have been flooded and sewage has seeped into the water and could therefore cause health problems.

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