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MP promises resumption of work on Essex Valley Water System

Sunday, August 03, 2014    

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JUNCTION, St Elizabeth — Member of parliament for South East St Elizabeth Richard Parchment needs no reminding that his political future could hinge on the successful completion of the long-stalled Essex Valley Water Supply System.

So it was with a sense of extreme satisfaction that he told the Jamaica Observer by phone last week that work on the scheme's pipeline, which has been stalled at Nain for several years, is to resume on August 11 under a contract worth "in excess of" $100 million.

According to Parchment, the work, to be carried out by Bacchus Engineering, will involve the pipeline being installed from Nain to a storage tank in Dunder Hill, five miles away.

Additionally, said Parchment, the Cabinet has approved a contract worth $85 million to the Spur Tree-based Hood-Daniel Well Company for completion of the well field and installation of a pump at Long Hill, close to North Hampton in the Myersville Division.

"We are looking at water coming through in another 12 months to communities such as Myersville, Warminster, Austin, New Building, Nain, Content, Stephen's Run, Gazeland, Lititz, Chocolate Hole and the town of Junction," declared Parchment.

He is hopeful that in time, the Essex Valley project, which was first launched in 2001, will extend to Ballards Valley and Tryall.

Parchment concedes that the hilly terrain of South East St Elizabeth, which embraces much of the rugged Santa Cruz Mountains, means that most of his constituents will still remain dependent on rain water catchment tanks, and on expensive emergency trucking when those tanks run dry, as has been the case in the current drought.

However, he says completion of the Essex Valley scheme will increase the number of people attached to National Water Commission (NWC) pipelines by 150 per cent.

Currently, only about 10 per cent of people in South East St Elizabeth are served by NWC's piped water. It's expected that the Essex Valley scheme will increase that number to 25 per cent.

Less than half of St Elizabeth's residents receive piped water from the NWC.

Parchment says there are no easy answers to the long-standing and "fundamental" problem of water theft, which has been the bane of NWC service in St Elizabeth dating back decades.

The farm-based community of Junction, described as being among the fastest-growing Jamaican towns, gets very little water from a decades-old scheme originating at New Forest on the St Elizabeth/Manchester border, largely because of water theft by farmers down slope.

Water thieves routinely bore holes in the pipelines and divert the water to their farms. Much of the water simply goes to waste.

The NWC, assisted by police, has occasionally brought charges and taken alleged water thieves to court, but the problem persists.

Parchment hopes that community vigilance and improved management will help to ensure that the Essex Valley Scheme escapes the water thieves.

He, like many others, believes that the ongoing gradual expansion of irrigation schemes will eventually eliminate the desire to divert domestic water. Parchment is urging that as swiftly as possible, the New Forest/Duff House irrigation scheme, now serving farmers on the South Manchester/South East St Elizabeth border, be extended up slope to areas such as Comma Pen, Farm and Lititz.

"If that were to happen, I believe there would be a more reliable supply of domestic water (from the New Forest scheme) to Bull Savannah, Ridge and Junction," said Parchment.

He also spoke of an ongoing programme to repair and upgrade rainwater community catchment tanks across South East St Elizabeth to make life easier for the many thousands without access to NWC running water.

— Garfield Myers

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