The Government of Jamaica has revealed that the series of dry weather that the country is experiencing will continue to affect the country. “That is a problem that is critical in Jamaica right now,” said Albert Gordon, director general of the Office of Utilities Regulation and chairman of the Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR).
The recent drought caused the National Water Commission (NWC) to take action by strategically shutting off water in certain areas during scheduled times. With disparities between urban and rural areas, water availability varies with each area, often revealing the country’s need of proper water storage facilities and distribution systems to improve accessibility and water quality in Jamaica.
Water Quality in Jamaica: Regional Assessment
- Water in Rural Jamaica: Access to household running water remains something that most residents living in rural Jamaica have been without for most of their lives. The Minister of Water Robert Pickersgill expressed that some parishes are experiencing more severe signs of drought with as low as eight percent rainfall since May of 2016. Schools, particularly in rural Jamaica, that lack drinking water and hand washing facilities create high risks for children and staff to environmental health hazards.
- Water in Urban Jamaica: Water storage levels at the Mona Reservoir have depleted significantly to 32.8 percent. This reservoir serves as a critical source of water for the island. In addition, water levels at the Hermitage Dam have depleted by 44.2 percent of its capacity. Individuals living in the outskirts of the urban area or in illegal settlements have little or no access to piped water supply. According to Gordon, the government of Jamaica needs assistance in tackling their current water issues. “There are things that need to be strengthened. We don’t have a water sector law that can facilitate more people coming in and providing alternatives to NWC (National Water Commission),” said Gordon. “How do we incentivise others to come in? Because NWC cannot do it.”
Government Involvement in Water Quality in Jamaica
Access to water will be one of the main issues discussed at the 14th Annual Conference Organization of Caribbean Utility Regulators (OOCUR) in Montego Bay set to happen Oct. 26 to 28. The conference will feature presentations from the Inter-American Development Bank (IDB) on the benefits of international water investments as well as the importance of public-private water partnership to improve water quality in Jamaica.
While there are no immediate plans to build additional dams or reservoirs, mitigation measures have been employed to assist southern farmers who have been most affected by the drought. Trucking via the Rapid Response Unit and through the National Irrigation Commission allows access to water by the gallon in these areas.
– Shanique Wright