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JIS News

With major work being undertaken by the National Water Commission (NWC) on water supply and wastewater carriage systems in the Kingston Metropolitan Area (KMA), residents can look forward to improved service from the company.
Communications Manager at the NWC, Charles Buchanan, tells JIS News that a two-sided project, which involves rehabilitation of the KMA water supply network, as well as the improvement of potable water in the Corporate Area, is well-advanced.
“This will improve the water supply, specifically in the South East St. Catherine Area, including Greater Spanish Town, Portmore and will also benefit large parts of Kingston. It is two-sided, in that it will both deal with improving clean water supply as well as improving wastewater services,” he explains.
The project, which is partly funded by the Japan Bank for International Co-operation and the European Union, involves four main activities. These include, the institutional strengthening of NWC, the rehabilitation of existing facilities, the development of new water sources to supply the growing customer base and the recharge of artificial aquifers.
Reporting the status of each phase of the project, Mr. Buchanan tells JIS News that repairs on existing facilities were 92 per cent complete, that new water supplies were 81 per cent developed, and 27 per cent of works to recharge aquifers completed.
The US$85 million project is the largest rehabilitative programme ever to be undertaken by the Commission, and is expected to make a significant impact on the water company’s operations in the Corporate Area.
Rural residents will not be left out, as the project is a pilot that will be refined and implemented islandwide.
Mr. Buchanan says the overall thrust in the NWC’s four-year transformation mandate, “has a general objective of contributing to the improvement of both the water supply and wastewater service levels in the Kingston Metropolitan Area”.
He says the KMA project is, “intended to complement a number of other projects that we are undertaking, so it will be a complement to Soapberry Phase One, which is being undertaken right now at a cost of some US$55 million jointly among the NWC, the Urban Development Corporation, the National Housing Trust and Ashtrom”.
Meanwhile, Mr. Buchanan informs JIS News that the improvement of potable water supply transcended an increase of clean water available in dams.
“We want to focus more on the major clean water treatment plants. The main thing is that the potable side of the project is aimed at helping NWC to reduce the level of non-revenue water that we lose from our existing system. We are going to change out some pipes, so they have fewer leaks,” he says.
The NWC reports that water losses due to broken mains and breaches in otherwise sound pipe networks, have resulted in high levels of water theft and concomitant higher operational costs.
“We are going to do some improvement at our treatment plants and our storage tanks, so that we reduce the amount of water that overflows from the treatment plants and water distribution tanks,” Mr. Buchanan says.
He tells JIS News that rehabilitation works are slated to be done at the Mona, Hope, Constant Spring and at Sea View water treatment plants. These works will include the retrofitting of the equipment.
“The rehabilitation will both reduce the amount of water we lose as well as improve the quality and manageability of the system,” he adds.
Mr. Buchanan says he expects that the overall result of the projects will be that service reliability to NWC customers will be vastly improved and water lock-offs will in some way be reduced.
“By increasing the efficiency, we won’t eliminate the necessity of restrictions, but we will significantly reduce it. We will deal with the part that is within our control and hope that the rainfall reliability will improve,” he says.
In the meantime, Mr. Buchanan stresses that conservation on the part of the customer is highly important.
“This is something we encourage for the good of the customer. I you use less water, you pay less water bill,” he says. He explains that the less water an NWC customer uses per month, the more they benefit from the subsidy on domestic water supply.
“The smaller volumes are heavily subsidised [but] as you increase your usage, it becomes less and less subsidised per 1,000 gallons,” he explains.
The NWC water tariff is structured to, in the first instance, provide a life-line supply of 3,000 gallons per 30 days, which Mr. Buchanan says is more than the average required to meet normal domestic needs. This means that an NWC customer who uses 3,000 gallons of water or less, pays much less than the cost of bringing that water to their home.
“Every 1,000 gallons you use after that, the dollar amount you pay for that additional 1,000 gallons is more than you would have paid for the first 3,000 gallons,” he says.
Mr. Buchanan explains that for each additional 1,000 gallons of water a customer uses in excess of their 3,000-gallon life-line, the cost on the bill reflects the true cost of water as this excess use suggests that the customer can afford the real cost of the water.
He says that all Jamaican residential customers are privileged to receive subsidies on their water supply, as in most developed countries subsidised water is supplied only to the poor.