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Jamaicans have been urged to conserve water, in light of the drought conditions currently being experienced throughout the island.

This call came from Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, Hon. Robert Pickersgill, as he addressed the opening of the Ministry’s two-day exposition, held on the lawns of Devon House, St. Andrew, on March 22.

“It is incumbent on each of us to play our own part and become more proactive in reducing our water footprint by conserving on our use of water and preserving our fresh water sources. This is especially true given the drought we are now experiencing across much of the island,” he emphasised.

Water conservation, he said, is now even more critical based on the fact that the island is “due for longer dry periods in the years ahead”, according to research done at the University of the West Indies on the local impacts of climate change.

“This means it cannot be business as usual. Dwindling inflows into our dams and reservoirs will require a collaborative and inclusive approach to ensure the sustainability of our water resources,” he said.

To this end, the Minister said it will be necessary to diversify the means of harvesting water which, among other things, should include: rainwater harvesting for use in homes and small businesses; recycling wastewater for industry, agriculture and domestic use; preserving watersheds and groundwater sources by replenishing and replanting the forest cover; and keeping groundwater sources pollution free.

Highlighting specific strategies being put in place by the administration to address the dry period, Minister Pickersgill said a Drought Management Committee has been mandated to draft a comprehensive disaster management policy, which will set out a medium to long term strategy to mitigate the effects of drought on the island.

“A six month consultancy is being offered to draft the policy,” he said.

The Minister pointed out that since March of last year, 21 Rapid Response trucks have been repaired, “and all but three have been deployed to service the communities that are thirsting for water. We are working to have the full complement of 50 available to service affected communities by the next significant drought period next year.”

In the meantime, Minister Pickersgill assured that the Governmment is working to increase the supply of water to consumers islandwide under various projects, and spending hundreds of millions of dollars on projects to increase the availability of potable water from 73 per cent to 85 per cent by 2017.

“It is well known that water touches every aspect of our existence, and is an essential component if we are to live healthy, dignified lives. Access to potable water is essential for building healthy, robust, and dynamic communities and by extension, a vibrant and productive nation,” he said.

Staged under the theme: ‘Partnering for Sustainable Development’, the exposition sought to highlight the work of the Ministry, its agencies, partners and stakeholders, particularly in the area of water and meteorology.

The event also highlighted activities marking World Water Day observed on March 22 and World Meteorological Day on March 23.

By Alecia Smith-Edwards, JIS Reporter