JIS News

Story Highlights

  • More Jamaicans are now accessing quality potable water, as a result of improved infrastructure to harness and deliver the commodity.
  • General Manager for Engineering at Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL), Douglas Wilson, tells JIS News that the agency, a department of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, has put in place critical water systems, and in spite of the recent drought, more Jamaicans are getting quality potable water.
  • He points out that thousands of residents in the parishes, who were severely impacted by long periods of inadequate supplies, now have piped water in their homes.

More Jamaicans are now accessing quality potable water, as a result of improved infrastructure to harness and deliver the commodity.

General Manager for Engineering at Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL), Douglas Wilson, tells JIS News that the agency, a department of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change, has put in place critical water systems, and in spite of the recent drought, more Jamaicans are getting  quality potable water.

He points out that thousands of residents in the parishes, who were severely impacted by long periods of inadequate supplies, now  have piped water in their  homes.  This, he notes, has been achieved through the rehabilitation of catchment tanks and the completion of several small water systems.

“The people are ecstatic and are very happy. We were able to make a significant impact in some of those drought stricken areas of St. Elizabeth, Westmoreland, Clarendon and other parishes too, but those in particular, as we had concentrated our efforts. We have completed close to 30 [catchment] tanks this year and those have made a significant impact,” Mr. Wilson says.

Some of the water supply projects completed include Cassava Pond in St. Catherine; Mahoe Ridge to Horseguard/Garlands and Gutters/Retirement in St. James; Hagley Gap/Kerrick Hill/ Penlyne Castle in St. Thomas; Haining in Portland and Farkett Lane, in St. Catherine.

Among those on track for completion soon are  Pear Tree River/Richmond Hill/Lionel in Eastern St. Thomas; Llandewey in Western St. Thomas and Bellisle in Westmoreland.

The RWSL has spent  some  $100 million on  water projects,  with funding  from the Government  and  international financiers, such as the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB).

Mr. Wilson tells JIS News that  recipients are usually very ecstatic about receiving their water systems.

“There is a certain amount of raised dignity, where people feel that they are somebody. Rather than having to go and fetch water, and women bathing themselves in the open,  they now have piped water in their homes. Yes, I can say they feel lifted,” he says.

He points out that getting water to communities is not always an easy  operation, as there are always challenges to overcome.  Chief among the challenges are finance, distance and terrain.

Mr. Wilson  says even though water  is available and it can be fed by gravity, the distance, the type of terrain and the cost to execute the project becomes prohibitive, rendering the project not feasible to implement.

He adds that as much as possible, solar energy is being integrated as an operational strategy.

“We at Rural Water are conscious of the reality of the fiscal restraint we operate within. The terrain will cause us to have to find innovative ways to deliver the water. We’re moving more towards solar energy when we have to pump. The main cost then would be chlorination and the general maintenance of the system. So, after the initial cost of the pump, the operational cost of running the system will, more or less, be eliminated,” the General Manager notes.

Mr. Wilson tells JIS News that in striving to increase the number of persons to access potable water in 2016, Rural Water Supply Limited will be aggressively undertaking the islandwide Catchment Tank Improvement and Rehabilitation Programme, being pursued by the Government.

This will be done in collaboration with the Ministry of Local Government and Community Development and the Parish Councils, and will involve some 282 tanks.

Mr. Wilsons  says priority will be given to  areas which experience severe drought,  in consultation with the Parish Councils.

“We have a rolling programme where we rehabilitate as many tanks as are needed. We have also done a parish by parish assessment with the parish councils and have identified the priority systems which will be rehabilitated as soon as funding is available,” he notes.

Mr. Wilson says the Government has also taken another step towards securing water for citizens through a pilot Artificial Groundwater Re-charge Programme.   Funded by the IDB, the exercise, being executed in the Innswood area of St. Catherine, will see aquifers or wells being ‘artificially’ recharged with water from the Rio Cobre canal system.  This will allow safe sustainable water to be stored.