Commendable rainwater harvesting programmes

Wednesday, October 23, 2019

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The issue of rainwater harvesting is not one that normally gets front page attention. However, readers will agree that this method of providing the precious commodity for various needs is a constant focus of this newspaper. For we regard it as a vital tool in Jamaica's climate change adaptation arsenal.

Just two months ago we published a wonderful story on a programme implemented by the United Nations Development Programme Jamaica and the Jamaica 4H Clubs under which rainwater harvesting is being used to boost food security during drought across the country.

According to the report, the system was being tested and observed by students and teachers of 70 training institutions across the country, as a result of a gift of water storage tanks, conveyance systems, and drip irrigation hoses from the Japan Caribbean Climate Change Partnership, which is funded by the people of Japan.

Participating training institutions, we are told, include primary and high schools, Jamaica 4H centres, and correctional centres, many located in rural communities.

The data that was apparently used to help influence that programme was provided by Jamaica's Social and Economic Survey 2018, which indicated that the average annual rainfall was below the 30-year mean for most parishes. It also stated that there were 20 more incidents of normal drought and eight more incidents of severe drought than the previous year. The upshot is that farmers are being forced to contend with worsening drought due to climate change.

The programme is most commendable, and we wish it every success, especially given that a reported 101,732 people, including students, residents and teachers, are already benefiting from it.

Coming on the heels of that report was a revelation this week that 30 additional schools will benefit from rainwater harvesting systems to be installed by Rural Water Supply Limited (RWSL).

The agency, we learnt, recently commissioned into service systems installed at Rock Hall All-Age School in St Andrew, and Enid Bennett High School in Bog Walk, St Catherine, with another 30 set for completion by the end of the 2019/20 fiscal year.

Then came even more encouraging news from Mr Audley Thompson, managing director of the RWSL. The agency's increased budget, he said, is enabling it to install systems in more educational institutions and communities.

According to Mr Thompson, the RWSL had discussions with the Ministry of Education, Youth and Information and obtained a list of 182 primary schools which also require improved water supply. As such, funding, he said, is being sought to install systems at those schools.

We gather that the RWSL has been busy providing rainwater harvesting systems to residents and schools in a number of other communities, and we strongly urge the agency to continue doing so as there is no challenging the fact that rainwater harvesting helps to reduce demand on ground water, contributes to a decrease in soil erosion and flooding, and provides water suitable for irrigation and use in gardens. Plus, the water can be used for a number of non-drinking purposes.

With those programmes in train, we look forward to what the National Water Sector Policy and Implementation Plan 2019 will achieve, for there is great need for a coordinated approach to how we manage the island's water resources.


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