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Worst of the drought is yet to come, Pickersgill warns

By Tanesha Mundle Observer staff reporter mundlet@jamaicaobserver.com

Monday, July 21, 2014    

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Minister of Water, Land, Environment and Climate Change Robert Pickersgill did not speak with water in his mouth as he warned Jamaicans last night to brace for worsening drought conditions and more water restrictions.

The minister in a national televised broadcast said that the drought had worsened considerably in several communities in the island and that the dry spell was expected to continue for much longer. He said that the inflows into several of the country's large reservoirs were well below normal and that the country did not receive the amount of rainfall for the usually wet months of May and June. Several of the country's rural water systems had also been affected.

"Fellow Jamaicans, this is a challenge, and it is one that is made worse by higher temperatures and windy conditions, that provide the perfect combination for bush fires, which, given the present water shortage, will be difficult to control and extinguish," said Pickersgill.

"Even more troubling are the meteorological projections. The El Nino weather phenomenon that is at present affecting our weather pattern is projected to continue and will result in no significant increase of rainfall even during the next rainy season, which is from October to November," he added.

The minister said that reduction in the amount of rainfall that the country was currently getting had significantly reduced the inflows from springs and rivers into several of the country's facilities.

"Preliminary rainfall figures for the month of June indicate that Jamaica received only 30 per cent of its normal rainfall and all parishes, with the exception of sections of Westmoreland (54 per cent), were in receipt of less than half of their normal rainfall. The southern parishes of St Elizabeth, Manchester, Clarendon, St Catherine, Kingston & St Andrew and St Thomas along with St Mary and Portland were hardest hit," Pickersgill said.

Clarendon, he said, received only two per cent of its normal rainfall followed by Manchester with four per cent, St Thomas, six per cent, St Mary 8, per cent and 12 per cent for Kingston and St Andrew.

Additionally, the water minister said that inflows into the Mona Reservoir from the Yallahs and Negro Rivers are now at 4.8 million gallons per day, which is among the lowest since the construction of the Yallahs Pipeline in 1986, while inflows into the Hermitage Dam are currently at six million gallons per day, down from more than 18 million gallons per day during the wet season.

Pickersgill also stated that 120 of the 460 rural water systems that are manned by the National Water Commission had so far been affected.

However, he said the ministry had deployed 40 trucks to the affected parishes islandwide including the worse affected ones such as Clarendon and St Elizabeth and that water trucks would continue to service those parishes until normal rainfall was restored.

Also, Pickersgill said that parish councillors and members of parliament had been given additional funds to finance the trucking of the water in their respective division and that Cabinet had approved a submission for additional funds to truck water under the Rapid Response Programme, on which $85 million had already been spent.

In addition to those measures, the minister said the NWC had started a range of initiatives under the Emergency Water Management Measures tailored to meet specific needs of each area or system, which included harnessing additional water for treatment and distribution from new and restored sources and the sharing of water from the least-affected systems with the worst-affected areas.

The measures also include water restrictions which prohibits citizens from watering gardens, lawns, grounds and farms and washing car, pavements or roadways and also barred them from filling tanks, ponds or swimming pools.

In the meantime, he said that the NWC had been placed on alert to fix all water leaks and would be provided with the necessary resources to respond accordingly.

Pickersgill also appealed to the public to report all leakage to the Leak Hotline Numbers at 733- 5655, and 733-5656 or text 838-LEAK (5325).

Pic: Robert Pickersgill

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