JIS News

Jamaica is currently experiencing drought conditions, with some areas being severely affected. However, the National Water Commission (NWC) is assuring customers that all necessary measures are being employed to ensure that adequate water supplies are maintained across the island.
Charles Buchanan, Corporate Public Relations Manager of the NWC, told JIS News that approximately 30 per cent of the Commission’s 460 water supply systems have been significantly impacted by the drought conditions.
While it is normal to have a considerably reduced amount of rainfall at this time of the year, Mr. Buchanan noted that the situation was not in line with expectations. “When compared to the 30-year mean average, the rainfall for the last several months has been particularly low in some sections of the island.
We have had 52 per cent of the normal average rainfall in December, and we have had 69 per cent in January. So we have a situation where just about one-half of what was normally expected has been received across the country,” he said.
Providing a breakdown of the situation island wide, Mr. Buchanan pointed out that while the dry conditions “will fluctuate from parish to parish, it is particularly severe in its impact on southern parishes including Kingston and St. Andrew, St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Clarendon, Manchester and St. Elizabeth. It has also been lower than normal and going into drought conditions for sections of Trelawny and St. Ann”.
The Public Relations Manager further explained that the effects of the drought would also vary across the island based on the type of water supply system that served a particular area.
“At the moment, the systems which are most severely affected are the water supply systems that are fed from surface sources such as rivers. Most of our well sources are not as severely affected. It also impacts our smaller water supply systems to a greater extent than it does our larger water supply systems,” he said.
In order to deal with the situation, the NWC has implemented a number of water management strategies. “We have had to increase the use of trucking water to those of our customers and indeed, some persons who are not our customers, to augment the systems where the piped supply is not adequate,” Mr. Buchanan told JIS News.
For this exercise, the Commission has been utilising the services of the Rapid Response Unit and privately owned water trucks in addition to its own fleet.
Additionally, the NWC is actively pursuing measures aimed at reducing the impact of breakage and water loss from the system and is carefully harnessing available resources for delivery to customers.
Customers are being asked to call the Commission’s toll free line at: 1888-CALL-NWC (1 888-225 5692) to report breaks or other instances of water being wasted.
Other measures being implemented by the NWC to deal with the drought conditions, include, increased valve regulation and scheduled rationing of water in particular areas. The NWC is also taking the pressure off water systems that have reduced inflows and using systems that are less affected by the drought conditions.
According to the Corporate Public Relations Manager, the NWC’s ability thus far to deal with the dry spell was partly due to periods of exceptionally high rainfall experienced last year, as a result of the hurricanes and associated systems that affected the island.
At the same time, Mr. Buchanan said the benefits of those heavy rains had been diluted by the environmental degradation that had affected the ability of the watersheds to store water and gradually release it into the rivers over time.
“What we are having instead is a situation where heavy rainfall results in significant amounts of flooding immediately after that rainfall event, and shortly thereafter, all of that water has run-off rather than being absorbed and stored in the underground aquifer,” he explained.
Meanwhile, Mr. Buchanan has given the assurance that trucking operations would continue for as long as it is necessary, however consumers are being urged to practice conservation measures until further notice. To this end, the NWC will intensify its public education conservation messages during the course of this month.
The NWC is also asking customers for patience and understanding as it attempts to meet the challenges posed by the drought conditions.
Jamaica has a bimodal rainfall pattern, which means that the country experiences two peak rainfall seasons during the year, as well as two dry spells. There are significant volumes of rainfall during the period May to June, and again during the September to October period.