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Water crisis

Minister announces new restriction measures for urban, rural areas

BY BALFORD HENRY Senior staff reporter balfordh@jamaicaobserver.com

Thursday, July 03, 2014    

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MINISTER of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill has announced new measures to counter what he describes as "a serious water supply situation already affecting the country seems likely to worsen".

In a statement to the House of Representatives, yesterday, Pickersgill said that, given the current situation, a major part of the Government's response must be the imposition of water restrictions and regulations, in affected urban and rural communities served by the National Water Commission (NWC).

"As a result of the unseasonably low yields and the dire forecasts, the National Water Commission is forced to implement new restrictions for customers served by the affected water supply systems, in an attempt to best share the limited supplies among its customers and, at the same time, stretch the available supplies," he told the House.

"I have instructed the National Water Commission to issue a prohibition notice, by this weekend, on the washing of vehicles, the watering of lawns and filling swimming pools, among other activities," he told Parliament.

He said that persons who are found to be in breach of the prohibition will be taken before a Resident Magistrate's Court, and may be directed to pay a fine.

"I want to emphasise that all steps will be taken to ensure that customers receive water during the stipulated supply periods," he told the House.

Pickersgill said that his ministry would truck water to the most seriously affected areas, through the Rapid Response Programme.

He said that, as of today, he will be making available two 8,000-gallon trucks from the Rapid Response Unit, to truck water to persons in Clarendon. And in South St Elizabeth, in addition to the allocation of funds for the trucking of water, Government be dispatching three 8,000-gallon trucks for the trucking of water.

Minister Pickersgill said that the problem was an islandwide challenge, bordering on a crisis.

"What is even more troubling are the meteorological projections. We are now in a dry period and the next rainy season is from October to November, with September being a transitional month. Even if the situation were to change, and we received the expected rainfall during the next rainy period, which is October to November, it perhaps would not be enough to make up for the shortfall in the May - June rainy season," he explained.

He said that the global prediction is for 2014 to be the hottest year on record, and the prediction is based on the weather phenomenon, El Niño, as well as climate change.

The term El Niño relates to feedback between the atmosphere and ocean that occurs every two to seven years, and can wreak havoc on the weather system, inflicting droughts or excessive rainfall.

According to the minister, scientists are predicting that there is an 80 per cent chance that Jamaica will continue to experience the effects of El Niño during the months of September to December, and beyond.

"We, therefore, have to be proactive and prepare for the worsening impact of the El Niño phenomenon and the consequent below-average rainfall predicted across most of the island," Pickersgill said.

He told the House that while Government deals with the immediate situation, it is pleading with all Jamaicans to conserve on their use of water at all times, but especially until the next expected rainfall period.

He suggested that consumers: turn off all taps when not in use; turn off the water when soaping up while showering; refrain from washing cars with a running hose, or watering lawns while supplies are low; fix leaks around the home; reuse and recycle water around the home, wherever practical; and, where possible, install water-saving technology, including low-flush toilets, composting toilets and waterless urinals

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