JIS News

The National Water Commission (NWC) is urging all Jamaicans to conserve on their use of water, as the country continues to experience a dry period.
Corporate Public Relations Manager at the NWC, Charles Buchanan, says conservation is important, because it provides more water for use by everyone, especially in periods of drought.
“It is most helpful to the NWC’s desire to provide service to as many persons as possible. We also strongly encourage conservation because it is a way that the consumer can control their water bill and can save money for themselves,” he advised.
Mr. Buchanan said that one of the main sources of water loss or wastage is leakages, as one drop of water per second wastes 2,400 gallons per year.
“There are a number of leaks that develop on a premises, some of which are not an immediate nuisance or don’t appear to be a major waster of water. But, every little thing adds up. Over the course of a month, over a year, it adds up to a significant amount of water, which is being wasted and so we encourage and urge persons, whether they are inconvenienced by leaks or not, to fix these leaks,” he advises.
Before calling the plumber, householders can do a number of things to check for leaks on their own, including checking the water meter.
“When everything is turned off (and) there is no leak, there should be no change in the number and no movement on the dial on the water meter. Normally we recommend that you wait for 5 or 10 minutes, don’t flush the toilet during that time, don’t turn on any water faucet at all, and at the end of that period, when you look back at the meter, no movement should have taken place at all on the dial. If there is a change, the most likely cause of that is that there is a leak somewhere,” Mr. Buchanan explains.
The bathroom has been identified as one of the most common areas that contribute to leakage, particularly the toilet, where leaks are often not visible. In most cases, this kind of leakage may not cause any great nuisance, and can go on unnoticed for a very long time. Therefore, apart from checking for water flowing into the bowl when the toilet is not being flushed, there is something else that customers can do, he points out.
“What we encourage is that you may use something that will colour the water in the tank. Sprinkle some of this colouring device inside the water tank, without flushing, the water in the toilet bowl should remain clear, while the water in the tank would take the colour of the food colouring that you have put in it. If the water in the toilet bowl begins to change colour without you having flushed the toilet, then you know that somewhere there is a creeping leakage,” he says.
According to Mr. Buchanan, studies in household water supplies around the world show that about 10 per cent of the water used in the home is wasted because of leaks. This may vary, as some households may have significantly more than that.
He also cautions against getting rid of waste such as cigarette and hair via the toilet, which is a common habit. This causes extra use of water to constantly flush these items away, and this can add up significantly over the course of a month.
“Each flush represents five gallons of water being used, so in that way, it adds to your usage,” he points out.
This type of disposal also leads to other issues that are rarely considered. When the toilet is used to dispose of solids, it creates increased blockages in the NWC’s central sewers and causes overflows. It also causes problems at the treatment plant and can damage pumps.
Customers are encouraged to reduce consumption in as many ways as possible, including the use of water-saving devices, which do not have to be intricate or expensive.
“There are a whole range of water-saving devices that can enable a householder to use less water than they normally use, and these could include things like aerators, which you attach to the faucet, or flow regulators, or some other displacement device,” he explained.
Mr. Buchanan says that, for instance, persons who have extremely large toilets using seven gallons per flush, they can simply place something inside that toilet that would displace some of the water, and reduce the amount used each flush, which would result in significant saving over time, as well.
In this case, persons can still enjoy the benefits of a luxurious shower, using less water per minute. These devices can be purchased at any hardware store.
Persons are also urged to re-use water whenever possible. This “grey water” includes water used to wash dishes. It can be used to water plants and are suitable for quite a number of other purposes, such as flushing the toilet.
Another problem is constant dripping from faucets. This can be easily resolved by changing the washer, which is cheap and is easily installed by the householder.
Mr. Buchanan also strongly advises that between an NWC meter and every house, there should be a lock-off which allows lock-off to the premises.
“Unfortunately, we have found far too many cases where people complete their plumbing without installing a lock-off device for themselves. In those cases, it may be a bigger challenge to effect repairs without causing wastage, because if the leak is occurring before some point where you have a lock-off, chances are a significant amount of water may go to waste while repairs are being effected,” he says.
Mr. Buchanan advises that it is important to effect repairs that require the services of a professional, as soon as possible.
“It may cost you a little to employ a plumber, but certainly in the long run it will cost you far less to have a plumber effect the repairs immediately, than to have a leak running indefinitely, inflating your water bill, causing significant inconvenience and potentially causing damage to your property,” he says.
Customers can also keep their bills low by reducing baths and taking showers, instead. Brushing your teeth, with the tap running is another common practice that Mr. Buchanan advises against.
Although the NWC calculates the average amount of water used per household in Jamaica at 3,000 gallons per month, this varies widely due to personal usage patterns. The Commission has in place a tariff structure that entitles customers to significant subsidies for the first 3,000 gallons of water.
Mr. Buchanan explains that if customers use no more than the 3,000 gallons per month, they will be paying less than it costs to deliver the water, because customers benefit from a lifeline subsidy, which is providing Jamaicans with the amount of water they need for regular usage, at a subsidy rate. Thereafter, the more water used beyond that point, customers pay more per thousand gallons, because of the graduated scale that the water rate is calculated at.

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