Water supplies dry up

KINGSTON, Jamaica – Water supplies in some areas of St Ann, St Mary and Portland are being adversely affected by the current dry spell being experienced across Jamaica.

Haining and Turtle River in eastern Portland and Avisfield, Dowsan Town, Content, New Ground, Higgin Town, McDowell, McNie, Cascade and Colegate in St Ann are some of the areas currently being affected.

National Water Commission (NWC) area manager for St Mary and Portland, Anthony Cornwall, told The Gleaner that Haining and Turtle Crawl were the most badly affected communities in the two parishes.

“Portland is severely affected. We have lost about 90 per cent of our water with Haining and Turtle Crawl literally dry, we have had to be trucking water,” Cornwall said. “The areas affected mostly are served by springs, which are affected first when there’s a dry period.”

Worst dry spell in years

However, a shortage of trucks has compounded the problem as vehicles from the Rapid Response Unit are unavailable.

Cornwall said, although there is an annual dry spell, this year it started early and is much worse at this stage than in recent years.

He said other areas beyond Drapers, such as Manchioneal and Hector’s River, are also being affected.

Cornwall said pre-emptive communication with residents of areas such as Long Bay and Rural Hill prevented them demonstrating over the lack of the commodity.

“We advised them early, that’s why there’s no outcry. Over the years, we have been working with the communities and they understand we’re trying to help.”

Cornwall said St Mary is not as badly affected as yet, but areas such as Sanside and Castleton are already having shortages.

“We are watching Iter Boreale, which is a spring that serves one-third of the parish and which is going down,” Cornwall said.

Areas such as Annotto Bay, Agualta Vale, Islington, Robin’s Bay, Highgate and surrounding communities are served by the Iter Boreale station.

Cornwall said the amount of water the NWC has been able to source from springs has been steadily declining over the last five years. Coupled with the decline is the increase in use of the liquid as residents have become more urbanised in terms of building inside toilets. Water use, he said, has quadrupled over the period.

Major challenge

Meanwhile, NWC community relations officer for the western division, Julia Gordon, in an emailed response, said the prolonged drought has adversely affected the NWC’s ability to adequately serve customers in St Ann and other areas in western Jamaica.

“The decline in production of water at many of our water sources, particularly the springs, has been a major challenge in providing a reliable and consistent supply of water to areas that are usually adequately served as the demand for water is now more than the supply,” Gordon said.

Gordon said the situation is further exacerbated by larger-than-usual usage by customers during summer months, illegal connections, unreported leaks, improper use of water, such as to wash driveways and walkways, and the use of water for irrigation purposes.

To address the situation, the NWC has adopted several approaches, including water lock-offs to control distribution, trucking to customers who are in need and increased vigilance to detect illegal connections. The commission has also increased its public-education campaign to encourage conservation.