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The Ministry of Water and Housing is putting measures in place in preparation for what the meteorological office projects is likely to be a significant 2010 drought season.
Addressing journalists at a press conference, at Jamaica House on October 29, Minister of Water and Housing, Hon. Dr. Horace Chang, said that while there has been no hurricane so far, there has been a significant drought throughout the year.
“My understanding is that there is not likely to be any significant number of hurricanes next year, but we are likely to have droughts and that’s a problem we will have to deal with,” he said.
Dr. Chang explained that given Jamaica’s mainly limestone based geology, dams are not the best way to go, as during low rainfall periods, the flow of streams and rivers decreases.
He said that wells, however, while more costly to operate, are far more reliable, once the aquifers can be identified. Hence, this is where the Ministry is keeping the focus in its drought-mitigation efforts.
To this end, the Ministry has asked the Water Resources Authority, which has a reliable database of such aquifers, to identify those, especially in the southern plains, where additional water can be accessed. This includes aquifers in parishes, such as St. Thomas, St. Catherine, Clarendon and St. Elizabeth.
“Rather than try to chase down the drought with trucks and all kinds of other means, if we go on an organised well developed programme in these areas, we may very well be able to mitigate 80 per cent of our drought problem when the dry season comes on,” Dr. Chang asserted.
He pointed out that in St. Thomas, for example, the Morant River Valley has quite a heavy flow of water, which if mobilised and developed, could provide water to almost every resident in that region.
“Similarly, in St. Elizabeth, which is one of our most difficult areas, the aquifer could be one of the most productive in the island, and what it needs is investment in the appropriate infrastructure down there, which we are undertaking,” the Minister assured.
An aquifer is any geological formation containing or conducting ground water, especially one that supplies water for wells and springs.
Dr. Chang pointed out that Manchester has its own problems, because the parish is elevated, but noted that there are areas where appropriate facilities can be developed to bring some relief to communities.
“Still, we cannot avoid discussing the possibility of rainwater harvesting, because it’s a very reliable source…it’s cheaper and for domestic purposes, we ought to examine that possibility,” he said.
The Minister also pointed to a similar difficulty in the southern plains of Clarendon which, although it has an adequate underground water supply, needs infrastructural investment. “In the May Pen area, for example, it is not so much the supply, but the infrastructure is old, and in discussion with the Office of Utilities Regulation (OUR), in addition to the drought mitigation, we are looking at how to begin the extension improvement of the infrastructure in various townships across the island,” he told the journalists.

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