'Too early to panic'

NWC concerned about low water level at Hermitage but says not all systems affected

BY KIMONE FRANCIS
Observer staff reporter
francisk@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, August 09, 2018

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CORPORATE communication manager at the National Water Commission (NWC) Charles Buchanan says the 35.4 per cent water level at the Hermitage Dam in St Andrew is affecting the entity's ability to consistently supply its customers in the Corporate Area.

In fact, Buchanan told the Jamaica Observer yesterday, in a telephone interview, that this has caused nightly lock-offs.

Despite this, the communication manager said it was too early for panic as only a small number of its water supply systems have been affected by the drought conditions.

“With the storage levels at the Hermitage Dam as low as they are we are unable to supply the volume of water from the Hermitage/Constant Spring system that would enable us to supply all the customers connected to that system for 24 hours each day. As a consequence, we have announced for some weeks now that there would be nightly restrictions,” Buchanan said.

Yesterday, operations personnel at NWC met to review the status of supplies for eastern sections of the island currently experiencing drought-like conditions. Buchanan said the status of supplies and issues related to the Hermitage/Constant Spring system were discussed. Water level at the dam was lowest in 2014 at 14 per cent.

The NWC spokesman said no improvement is expected for the next couple of months as predictions are for below the usual low rainfall heading into September.

“This is part of what is concerning for us. The issue is that even in periods of low rainfall there are pockets in parts of the country that may experience something different from the average experience from the rest of the country. We're hoping that the very low rainfall that has been experienced in the particular watersheds that serve the Hermitage/Constant Spring system would be different from what is experienced elsewhere. We do need the rainfall, but we particularly need it in the areas of the country that are experiencing reduced inflows,” he told the Observer.

But, according to Buchanan, the NWC has been able to maintain high levels of storage on the Mona system and has been able to treat with areas of the country which would normally be experiencing severe drought conditions at this time.

“Less than 20 per cent of our systems are having severe drought related impacts. Of the more than 400 water supply systems we have across the country only somewhere in the region of 80 of those systems are presently experiencing significant shortfalls in their production outputs,” he stated, adding that the large part of what is being felt is agricultural drought.

Added to that, Buchanan reiterated there is no need for panic at this time, noting that measures are being put in place to mitigate effects.

“We are monitoring the levels on a daily basis. We are putting in place a number of contingency plans, and we do urge that persons be considerate in the way in which they utilise the available resources at this time and the drought situation affecting some of our systems. It's a good time to conserve on their use of water,” he said.

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