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Cabinet expected to approve revised water policy

Friday, May 05, 2017

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IRONSHORE, St James — Cabinet is this parliamentary year expected to approve a revised National Water Sector Policy for the country, which is aimed at ensuring access to improved water service for all Jamaicans by 2030.“The policy commits the Government to universal access to improved water services for all Jamaicans by 2030,” minister without portfolio in the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation, Dr Horace Chang, stated.

The minister made the disclosure on Wednesday during his address at the opening ceremony of a three-day Inter-American Development Bank (IDB)/Government of Jamaica (GOJ)/National Water Commission (NWC) water sector conference.

The conference is being held at the Riu Hotel Montego Bay in St James.

Dr Chang said this move is to address the disparity many Jamaicans living in rural communities face, with the lack of adequate and reliable potable water supply.

“Under the draft policy, 85 per cent of the island will be designated as utility service areas, where piped water supplied by a utility service provider is done at the least-cost method of providing the service, and the Rural Water Supply Limited will have the responsibility of serving these areas,” he said

The minister said the extension of utility services will largely be financed by the NWC, where it is estimated that, up to 2030, US$3.4 billion will have to be invested in the rehabilitation and expansion of the commission's network, both in the rural and urban areas. Non-utility service improvements are expected to cost approximately US$176 million.

The policy and development strategy also envisages the establishment of a Water Access Fund, which will be a revolving fund managed by the Ministry of Economic Growth and Job Creation. This fund will provide loan or grant financing for projects in non-utility service areas.

Meanwhile, Dr Chang said the NWC is making headway with a US$46-million comprehensive non-revenue water programme in Kingston and St Andrew.

“The NWC is steadily progressing on a comprehensive programme to reduce the unacceptable high levels of non-revenue water in Kingston and St Andrew, which is estimated at approximately 60 per cent. It is projected to decrease this figure to 30 per cent by 2020.

“A number of other projects are being undertaken islandwide to improve supply reliability,” he added. “These include pipeline rehabilitation and construction of wells, establishment and refurbishment of sewerage infrastructure and wastewater treatment facilities. In the 2016/2017 financial year, the entity expended over $4 billion on water and sewerage-related activities. It is projected to spend just under $9 billion in the 2017/2018 financial year. Over US$650 million will be required to fund the implementation of eight of the major projects.”

The minister pointed out that, despite challenges, the Caribbean region has come a far way in increasing access to potable water, as the majority of the countries represented at the ongoing conference have reported access levels well above 90 per cent. He said, in Jamaica, access to potable or improved water sources is 92 per cent. Presently, access to piped water and sewerage stands at 79 per cent and 22 per cent, respectively, although the minister admitted that rural areas continue to lag behind with 49 per cent access to piped water.

— Anthony Lewis


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