JIS News

Story Highlights

  • WRA will be intensifying activities this year in ensuring that more Jamaicans, particularly those in rural areas, have access to potable water.
  • The agency will be working more closely with the NWC, RWSL, and the NIC in the effort.
  • Proper water resource management takes research, planning, strategising and the dedication of a team of highly trained hydrologists and hydro-geologists.

The Water Resources Authority (WRA) will be intensifying activities this year in ensuring that more Jamaicans, particularly those in rural areas, have access to potable water.

Managing Director of the WRA, Basil Fernandez, tells JIS News that the agency will be working more closely with the National Water Commission (NWC), Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL), and the National Irrigation Commission (NIC) in the effort.

“We will be working with the NWC in increasing its efficiency and reducing non-revenue water, with the National Irrigation Commission to increase irrigation and transmission efficiencies, and Rural Water Supply in implementing small systems that increase access to water among rural populations,” he says.

Working with agencies to ensure that Jamaicans have access to reliable and quality water supplies, is just part of the responsibilities of the WRA, which is an agency of the Ministry of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change. Established in 1996, under the Water Resources Act of 1995, the agency is vested with the authority to source, regulate, allocate, conserve and manage the water resources in the country to ensure its optimal use.

Mr. Fernandez says that proper water resource management takes research, planning, strategising and the dedication of a team of highly trained hydrologists and hydro-geologists.

“It is very challenging especially in light of climate change. It requires monitoring, mapping and assessment of the impact of events.  One has to be very sure that the data collected is reliable, and accurate,” he tells JIS News.

The WRA also has responsibility for assessing the quality of surface and ground water; the licensing of companies that drill wells; the preparation and annual updating of the National Water Resources Master Plan; and the declaration of water quality zones as a means of giving some level of protection to water resources.

The agency maintains a hydrological database and provides data, information, and technical assistance to government and non-government institutions.

The WRA has had some notable achievements over the years, including being the first agency to carry out a water assessment exercise in Jamaica; providing critical assistance in bringing water into Portmore and other key settlement areas of St. Catherine, and executing the first artificial recharge of an aquifer for the storage of rainwater.

The WRA also carries out monthly monitoring of stream flow at more than 122 stations on the major rivers of the island; assessment of ground water levels at over 300 wells; sampling of water for quality analysis at key locations in order to monitor effluent discharged from industrial, agricultural and municipal sites; monitoring of all well drilling operations; and keeping tabs on how much water is abstracted from the rivers, springs and aquifers to safeguard against overuse or abuse.

“We have estimated the reliable yield (for our ground water resources) for each of the 10 hydrologic basins and have allocated resources in keeping with that estimation of reliability.  We continue to do water balances, which tell us exactly where we are. Our projections up to 2025 are okay and we are looking at projections up to 2030,”

Mr. Fernandez informs.

Noting the importance of the agency’s work, Mr. Fernandez says that without proper water resource management as a country “we would have no idea of knowing exactly where we are, especially for the planned development of the country”.

“Before 1995, very few people ever heard of the Water Resources Authority.  Now, hardly anybody does any form of development without contacting the WRA. That is quite an achievement because the WRA is now recognised, locally and regionally, as a leading institution in developing water resources and resources management,” Mr Fernandez told JIS News.